Gun rights vs states rights

The situational ethics of gun lovers:

The House showed its utter disregard for public safety in November when it approved the National Right-to-Carry Reciprocity Act, which would take away the authority of states to decide who is allowed to carry a concealed and loaded handgun within their borders.

That's right, all those Constitution-thumping, states'-rights-defending Conservatives do a complete about-face when it comes to people going out in public armed. Even people who are underage and poorly vetted:

For example, New York, New Jersey and other states that bar individuals under 21 from obtaining a concealed carry permit would have to honor permits from states with no age requirement.

One of the main reasons states should be able to set their own standards for issues like this is because they vary so much in demography, geography, political ideology, and a slew of other characteristics that set them apart from each other. Like Arizona, for instance:

Today is the day gun-rights advocates have had in their sights for a long time. Starting today, Arizona residents at least 21 years old can carry a concealed weapon without a permit.

In the crazy world of pro-gun activism, this makes sense. The more people going out in public armed to the teeth, the better, and anybody who thinks that's not a good idea is either a wimp or a communist.


Well, hang on...

My understanding of 14th Amendment jurisprudence is a traditionally liberal one.

The original purpose of 14th Amendment was, in no uncertain terms, to emphatically ensure that citizens--particularly including, but not limited to, freed slaves--had federal recourse in the event that state governments refused to honor the rights that the federal constitution guaranteed them. The Radical Republicans who passed the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments knew full well that Jim Crow laws would happen unless the federal government's power to nullify them was written into the stone tablets of the Constitution. And of course they were proved right when the election of 1876 castrated the Radical Republicans and set that party on the long, sickening slide of venality and racism which continues today.

If my understanding of history and law is correct, and the 14th Amendment "incorporates" the Bill of Rights (and other "privileges and immunities" of citizenship) against the states, and if the 2nd Amendment is part of the Bill of Rights, then this argument isn't cockeyed at all, but fairly logical.

Shocking when something approaching logic comes out of conservative mouths, I know. And let's harbor no illusions that the real reasons for conservative vigor on 2nd Amendment issues is due to some combination of 1) lobbying from the NRA; 2) campaign funding from arms manufacturers; and 3) principled defense of the unwritten right to shoot black people on sight.

I refuse to support, in any way, the NRA or GOA, because they are nasty organizations that have made filthy beds with evil people.

But I will exercise my right to pipe up with my little minority voice as a gun-rights-supporting Leftist, and explain my reasons for taking the position I have.

If what one wants to do is repeal the 2nd Amendment, then one should come right out and say so, and join (or establish) an organization dedicated to that purpose, and pursue it unwaveringly. It sucks when rights guaranteed by the Constitution are nibbled away around the edges in the name of pragmatism or anti-terrorism or anti-violence or "stability." For those same arguments have been used to justify erosions of other rights, such as those guaranteed by the 1st, 4th, 5th, and 14th amendments about which I am certain we agree.

Garner, NC

I wouldn't recommend drugs, alcohol, violence, or insanity for everyone, but they've always worked for me. -- Hunter S. Thompson

Least common denominator

The problem (or one of the problems) with this is, it allows citizens of another state to bring their laws with them, circumventing the laws of the state to where they are traveling. While the Full Faith and Credit clause might seem to make this okay:

Full Faith and Credit shall be given in each State to the public Acts, Records, and judicial Proceedings of every other State.

But I'll let Dubya clarify how important that clause is:

The Constitution says that full faith and credit shall be given in each state to the public acts and records and judicial proceedings of every other state," the president said. "Those who want to change the meaning of marriage will claim that this provision requires all states and cities to recognize same-sex marriages performed anywhere in America. Congress attempted to address this problem in the Defense of Marriage Act, by declaring that no state must accept another state's definition of marriage. My administration will vigorously defend this act of Congress.

Also, the 2nd Amendment (of course) mentions a "Well-Regulated Militia", and you'll find that entity mentioned elsewhere in the Constitution as well:

reserving to the States respectively, the Appointment of the Officers, and the Authority of training the Militia according to the discipline prescribed by Congress;

It doesn't say "according to the discipline prescribed by the most lenient of states"...

State to state

Many reading this will probably find the following observations irrelevant, but when I took these pictures a while back, I noticed something that I meant to mention in the original diary.

When I arrived and when I left, I had to walk through most of the packed parking lot. Going in, I noted license plates from several different states, some as far away as Texas. Going out, I looked a little closer (I was going to jot down an actual count, but inspecting license plates while scribbling in a notepad didn't seem like a very wise move).

I would say the out-of-state license plates outnumbered the NC plates at least 2-1, and it's possible Georgia alone beat NC in the plate count.

Make your own assumptions, but I just found it a little odd.

While I understand the point of your diary, Steve, I think

your opening about "gun lovers" put me off. I have a high regard for well made, accurate, reliable firearms that do what they are meant to do and do it well. And, I get a little bristly when someone seems to clump all people who like and respect firearms into the kind of group shown in your pictures. Guns have been part of my life since I was a kid. I've used them to put food on the table and I've used them on the orders of my government...and in both cases I treated them respectfully, carefully, and as a needed part of my life.

As far as I'm concerned those pictures could just have well been taken at a Harley store, a muscle car convention, or any of a number of other places where people gather to show off something they own/wear/ride/drive that they seem to think makes them appear (for lack of better words) bigger, stronger and more influential than they are in real life. All those folks carrying around assault weapons are simply telling me they're got the money to go buy a gun that they think makes them look "studly," and which they likely will never use in it's intended role. I sorta laugh. If they haul that thing around in their car, or have it in their home for "protection" and decide to ever use it they're likely toast. They'll hurt/kill someone they never intended to and go to jail forever if they use it at home, or if they pull it to somehow threaten someone who actually carries, and practices, they'll be dead before they can realize that others aren't impressed and that pulling a gun is a deadly threat that will get them shot dead on the spot. Castle of 12/1/11.

That said, these "gun lovers" are not near the threat to society that, in my opinion, "big truck" driver's are. A day doesn't go by when I'm out and about when some pick-up dufus doesn't tailgate or otherwise act as if they own the road...and they get real nasty about it if one doesn't move aside so they (he or she) can play macho man/chick. I often travel stretches of road where, at dusk, a deer is likely to step out anywhere. I drive cautiously ... although at the speed limit if someone is following...or I'll try to pull over. Sometimes the road is narrow or there's no place to pull off and they just get right up on me and turn on their brights. It's often just as bad during the day, for other reasons, and not always involving me. So, I figure there are more idiots and criminals (felons can drive, can't they?) behind the wheel than carrying concealed weapons. And none of this even touches on the killers roaming the roads while texting.... :-) And, jeez, their license is good questions asked...

Stan Bozarth

I've got a lot of history with guns, too

And if I really thought those folks at the rally were dangerous, I wouldn't have attended.

My problem is, many in that movement believe that any restrictions on gun ownership or usage is an assault on their freedom. Even common sense stuff, that 90% of law-abiding citizens would welcome, is to be resisted. Convicted felon? An abusing husband with a restraining order against him? Someone who has to take anti-psychotics in order to function in society? None of those things matter.

Take a look at the Amendments to this bill, all of which were voted down except a "study" that would have no bearing on the actual bill itself. Here's one of them:

An amendment numbered 7 printed in House Report 112-283 to exempt from the bill any State law requiring a person to be at least 21 years of age to possess or carry a concealed handgun.

Like I said, no matter how much something makes sense, it's simply too much.

Convicted felons?

Why in particular should convicted felons be barred from owning and carrying firearms, *after they have completed their sentences*?

If people should get their voting rights back after being let out of the pokey, why should their right to bear arms be less sacrosanct? I find no reason within the U.S. Constitution to regard one as any less alienable than the other.

The restraining order and mental disability arguments are more subtle and interesting, because at least they would (I would *hope* in the latter case), involve the issuance of specific and time-limited court orders which are susceptible to litigation and appeal--but also renewal in the event of static underlying circumstances. Due process concerns remain. Look at the U.K.'s checkered experience with ASBOs (anti-social behavior orders).

I don't really see the problem with under-21s bearing arms. I think the age of majority should be harmonized. We can argue over whether that should be 18, 19, 21, 16, or whatever, but I think it is inconsistent and unfair to tell 18, 19, and 20 year olds that they can be "tried as adults" in every walk of life, and encourage them to assume tens of thousands of dollars of student loan debt at the very dawn of their adult lives, but still can't be trusted with alcohol or firearms.

We trust them with cars, which as Stan pointed out are de facto in every respect more lethal.

Nota bene that I do not care to defend the bussing in of out-of-staters, particularly odious Tea Partiers and right-libertarians and other useful idiots for the conservative movement, nor do I care to defend slippery legislative or administrative tactics.

But when it comes to personal liberty, yeah, I'm kinda on the Dubya side, as you put it. Full faith and credit to the most lenient laws in the country for ownership of 1) alcohol; 2) marijuana; 3) pornography; 4) firearms; 5) "violent" video games; 6) "offensive" music; 7) "circumvention" devices under the DMCA [I own a "Got DeCSS?" T-shirt that has been legally enjoined in the Federal 2nd Circuit for over 10 years now], and so forth-these all sound like good ideas to me.

By contrast, I reject corporate personhood and as a rule think that full faith and credit should be extended to the *most* restrictive set of state regulations on the books, when a firm deigns to do business on an interstate basis. This is because firms, by their nature, impose economic externalities to a much greater extent than all but the most personally powerful individuals do.

And, while we're at it, there's a way to get at personally powerful people, too--it's called redistribution of wealth and I support it wholeheartedly, particularly the intergenerational variety. (Ever notice how the loudest of mouths on the virtues of "pulling oneself up by one's bootstraps" go to great lengths to prevent their children from having to experience such character-building firsthand?)

To wrap this up, I recognize only two principled avenues for hard-core gun control advocates to take:

1) Full-throated advocacy of repeal of the 2nd Amendment; or

2) Outright civil disobedience and insurrection a la John Brown. Yes, this might be an ironic application of principle. C'est la vie. The point is that the odious Plessy v. Ferguson was the law of the land, supported by the craven federal legislators of the time. John Brown, whatever his flaws, had the gumption to put his balls all the way on the line. He was prepared for, and experienced, the most dire of consequences for his dedication to principle. Thus are heroes made.

I'm open to adding a third option to my roster, but I'll take convincing. Legislative end-runs and procedural tricks (like the Senate's "pro forma" meetings to try and prevent Obama from making recess appoints, for example), are not acts of courage. If one wants to uphold a principle of social or political reform without getting caught, one is in the wrong game.

Garner, NC

I wouldn't recommend drugs, alcohol, violence, or insanity for everyone, but they've always worked for me. -- Hunter S. Thompson

I think you missed the point

But when it comes to personal liberty, yeah, I'm kinda on the Dubya side, as you put it. Full faith and credit to the most lenient laws in the country

Bush was specifically targeting the Full Faith and Credit clause as being irrelevant in the Right's attack on LGBT equality. If they could, they would make the harshest state law the law of the land on this (and many other issues).

Look, I believe in preserving the liberty of individuals to pursue whatever happiness they can in this miserable life. But these pursuits don't happen in a vacuum. If a (civilian) man walks into a bar, or a park, or wherever, wearing a pistol on his hip, or a rifle slung, or a telling bulge in his lower back, he might be just as happy as a pig in shit. But what about everybody else? Are they supposed to either get over it, take for granted he's absolutely harmless, or simply "choose" to pack up the kids and the picnic basket and leave?

Not many choices there, and none of them are good.

Re: FF&C: I tried to put my

Re: FF&C: I tried to put my own spin on full-faith-and-credit, and explained my position at length. I should hope it's obvious I don't agree with the Right at all on LBGT suppression.

Regarding your public park scenario, I don't see how the mere implied threat is materially different if a jackass carries around a fake gun, or concealed gun-shaped object. He (and it will usually be "he") can do so today without violating any firearm laws if what he's carrying isn't a firearm.

How would we deal with such asshattery today? That's how we would deal with it in your hypothetical.

Garner, NC

I wouldn't recommend drugs, alcohol, violence, or insanity for everyone, but they've always worked for me. -- Hunter S. Thompson

Fascinating thread

I've taken "guns" off my list of stuff to worry about, partly out of resignation that politicians don't have the stomach to tackle it.

In many ways, libertarian simplicity has great appeal. I'm willing to go down their rabbit hole in areas where constitutional nuance applies, but not in areas where the constitution is silent.

That's why, for example, I believe that universal health care is a good idea, as long as no one is forced to get that care when they don't want it.

Would like to keep this discussion going ... and maybe broaden to the underlying philosophical constructs.

Positive liberty

Hi James,

I happen to be re-reading Mill's _On Liberty_ for the first time in 20 years. I'm getting a lot more out of it this time around. I can see where he loses the right-libertarians on page 6, but I happen to agree with Mill. Some aspects of liberty do require a positive obligation to others. Extending toleration for dissident opinions is one of them. Funding universal health care to overcome the adverse selection problem in health insurance markets is another.

On a separate note, I wish Mill's extensive exploration and defense of free speech and expression (chapter 2) were quaint and unnecessary. But it isn't. It seems we just rotate in new unspeakables every generation or so.

Garner, NC

I wouldn't recommend drugs, alcohol, violence, or insanity for everyone, but they've always worked for me. -- Hunter S. Thompson

Regarding guns

In Texas, the easy availability of guns is an alternative to the growing restrictions on abortion rights. The future of population control.

Texan infanticide

Sadly, given conservative attitudes to fetuses *after* they emerge from the womb, it doesn't seem like too much of a philosophical stretch to imagine Texans gunning down infants in their own homes with full legality on the premise that the children were trespassing on their property.

After all, in Texas, a woman's uterus belongs to the State, but a man's home is still his castle.

Garner, NC

I wouldn't recommend drugs, alcohol, violence, or insanity for everyone, but they've always worked for me. -- Hunter S. Thompson


And if those little babies don't have their papers, they can always be deported.