It’s Time to Accept Gun Limits

In a recent letter to ldnews.com, William Kautz of South Lebanon, PA, makes the case that “we should accept some gun limits.” It may come as a surprise to people who know my feelings on the subject of civil rights, but I actually agree with Bill. Everybody, across the country should accept whatever limits on gun ownership make them comfortable. Personally, I would set my gun limits as follows . .

  1. I can’t buy more than one gun a day (so 365 or fewer annually (except on leap years)).
  2. I can’t spend more on a gun than I ever spent on a car (so $30,000 per gun is the upper limit).
  3. I can’t order more ammo until I’ve stored the last container-load.

But that’s just me. Bill may have other ideas so take it away Bill:

At the risk of angering many of my gun-owning friends and neighbors, I say there should be a ban on assault weapon sales and ownership except for the U.S. Armed Forces and police departments.

So Bill doesn’t mean we should accept limits, he means that our lords and masters should impose limits and the rest of us peasants and serfs should just roll over and expose our bellies. I think not, Bill. Besides, what are these so-called assault weapons and what’s so horrible about them?

They are called “assault weapons” for a good reason. Their sole intent is to assault and kill as many people in as short a time as possible.

I’ve been involved in this civil rights movement for about a decade now, and I have heard that same statement made over and over, and I have never gotten a satisfactory answer (or any answer) to my big question on that subject. But first some background.

Back when the Clinton AWB was set to expire, the Brady Campaign sent their “Halt the Assault” Big Pink Rig across the country, trying to drum up support for a renewal of the ban. They made a stop at the capitol building in Saint Paul, MN, and the local astroturf anti group arranged a meeting with their mouthpiece, Rep. Betty McCollum, then Hennepin County Prosecutor (now Senator) Amy Klobuchar and Allerhöchsten Oberster Chief Scott Knight of Chaska, MN.

Despite the minimal notice and inconvenient scheduling (10:00AM on a Tuesday morning) I managed to get time off work to attend and listened to all three of them explain how the sole purpose for these weapons was to kill the most people in the shortest time. My question to the three of them (and I have followed up individually with each of the three at least a dozen times apiece since) was this:

Given the fact that the City of Cloquet, MN recently purchased M-4 Law Enforcement Carbines with which to equip their squad cars, please explain to me the circumstances under which a patrol officer in Cloquet would find it necessary to “kill the most people in the shortest time possible.”

I have never received an answer from any of the three. In fact I have asked that question dozens of times over the ensuing decade and have never gotten an answer from anyone. But it never seems to fail; whenever the subject comes up, you’ll hear the antis stating that modern sporting rifles are horrible killing machines and therefore only should be employed by the police.

But Bill continues to demonstrate his ignorance with almost every word:

… They aren’t being used for hunting, (except maybe by ivory and rhino-horn poachers in Africa) …

Actually Bill, setting aside the fact that the freedom to own and carry the weapon of your choice is a natural, fundamental, and inalienable human, individual, civil and Constitutional right — subject neither to the democratic process nor to arguments grounded in social utility, the AR-15 has been used as a varmint rifle for years. And .223 is now being accepted more and more for larger game like white-tails, pronghorns and bighorn sheep. Couple that with the fact that DiFi’s listed guns include as “assault weapons” (among others) the AR-10 and FN-FAL in .308 and the Saiga 12 ga. shotgun, yeah people do use them for hunting.

… and they are not used in normal target-shooting competitions.

Do you mean “normal” as in 3-gun competition matches with tens of thousands of dollars in prizes and professional shooters with corporate sponsorships from companies like FNH, Ruger, Leupold and Brownells? Or do you mean “normal” as in the Camp Perry National Rifle Matches, service rifles division?

But setting aside the ignorance already on display, does Bill have any other arguments to offer? Indeed he does:

As has been pointed out many times recently, the framers of the Constitution meant the amendment to allow for the maintaining of “a well regulated Militia” for the security of a free State.

Bill’s correct as far as he goes, but methinks he has no clue who comprises the militia and what “well regulated” actually means. Bill and his ilk would have us believe that “well regulated” means thoroughly bound by laws and strictures, but that’s a more recent interpretation of the phrase.

To find out what it meant in the 18th century we turn to Samuel Johnson’s A Dictionary of the English Language (published in 1755). Johnson’s dictionary was considered by most to be the pre-eminent English language dictionary until the publication of the Oxford English Dictionary some 175 years later. Johnson defines regulate as:

  1. To adjust by rule or method
  2. To direct

If we look up adjust we find:

  1. To regulate; to put in order
  2. To make accurate
  3. To make conformable

And the definition of direct is given as:

  1. To aim in a straight line
  2. To point against as a mark
  3. To regulate; to adjust

Finally the Oxford English Dictionary itself defines regulated as:

  1. Governed by rule, properly controlled or directed, adjusted to some standard.
  2. Of troops: properly disciplined (Obsolete rare).[A-HA!]

and gives the following example of its use in that sense:

1690 London Gazette No. 2568/3 We hear likewise that the French are in a great allarm in in Daupine and Bresse, not having at present 1500 men of regulated troops on that side.

Now that we’ve determined that “well regulated” means the militia should be properly disciplined and well-functioning, where can we look to find out who makes up the militia? The antis want us to believe the militia is merely an obsolete term for the National Guard, Hence the Second Amendment only applies to National Guardsmen and uniformed soldiers.

Fortunately there are numerous sources available to refute this. During the debates in Virginia on whether to ratify or reject the new Constitution which had come out of Philadelphia, George Mason (sometimes called the Father of the Bill of Rights) said:

A worthy member has asked, who are the militia, if they be not the people, of this country, and if we are not to be protected from the fate of the Germans, Prussians, &c. by our representation? I ask who are the militia? They consist now of the whole people, except a few public officers.

During those same debates Founder Richard Henry Lee (writing as M.T. Cicero to “The Citizens of America”) explained quite explicitly just who and what constituted the well-regulated militia:

No free government was ever founded, or ever preserved its liberty, without uniting the characters of the citizen and the soldier in those destined for the defence of the state . . . . Such are a well regulated militia, composed of the freeholders, citizen and husbandman, who take up arms to preserve their property, as individuals, and their rights as freemen.

In addition to these writings there is also legislative history, some contemporary to the Founding and some more recent, stating who is in the militia. The Militia Act of 1792 defined militia in Section 1:

 That each and every free able-bodied white male citizen of the respective States, resident therein, who is or shall be of age of eighteen years, and under the age of forty-five years (except as is herein after excepted) shall severally and respectively be enrolled in the militia, by the Captain or Commanding Officer of the company, within whose bounds such citizen shall reside, and that within twelve months after the passing of this Act.

In fact current U.S. Code contains a definition of the militia in Title 10-A Chapter 13 § 311:

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 National Guard.

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 Naval Militia

Which means that, well, pretty much everybody is in the militia, which in turn means that, in order to protect the country pretty much everybody should have military weaponry. But Bill has an answer to that too:

When that was written the world was a far different place than it is now, and the Founding Fathers could never have forseen[sic] how far the development of firearms would come in the future.

After all, their fathers, grandfathers, great-grandfathers and many generations before that had never seen anything but old, slow-to-load, inaccurate muzzle-loading pistols and long guns.

Ah yes, the classic “the Founders were unimaginative morons” argument. The only problem is that we have many things which were not around when the Bill of Rights was written, like television, radio, high speed printing presses, the internet, cell phones, video cell phones, Mormonism and Reform Judaism. Is Bill seriously going to try and argue that none of these are protected under the First Amendment because the Founders were too stupid to imagine their existence? Of course not! These things are all protected because the core right involved (freedom of the press and religion) is not affected by the instruments used to exercise it. Likewise the core right of keeping and bearing arms is not changed by changes in what constitute arms.

But even if we were to allow such limits, the fact of the matter is that people had access to far more than “old, slow-to-load, inaccurate muzzle-loading” single shot weapons in the 1780s. There were six-shot handguns like the pepper-box revolver made by London-based firearms manufacturer Henry Nock (inventor of the Nock volley gun capable of firing simultaneously from its 7 barrels) or the Continental firm of Segallas.

The Founders had access to 9-shot handguns like this one, sold by Christie’s for a little over $30,000 in December of 2006. It is described as:

A rare nine-shot flintlock repeating magazine pistol on the Lorenzoni principle, by H.W. Mortimer & Co., London, gun makers to his majesty, circa 1799-1806

Weapons using the “Lorenzoni System” (as described by ForgottenWeapons.com in a video here) first appeared in Europe around 1680 (while 7 of James Madison’s 8 great-grandparents were still alive). The mechanism worked by loading several shots worth of powder and ball in the frame. The operating lever loaded a ball and a set amount of powder into the chamber and cocked the locking mechanism. Obviously the machining on these weapons had to be fine enough to seal the combustion away from the remaining powder, but the design was successful enough that it appeared in long guns as well, specifically the 7 shot Cookson flintlock rifle.

Moving away from firearms, the Austrian army fielded a 22 ball capacity air rifle good for 40 shots before the air reservoir needed changing or recharging. Many historians partially credit the survival of the Lewis and Clark expedition to the fact that they carried such a Girandoni air rifle (purchased by Lewis out of his own pocket) which they demonstrated whenever they met a new Indian tribe. With ballistics comparable to a modern day .45 ACP (according to Phil Schreier (senior curator of the National Firearms Museum) it could very accurately fire its ball through a 1-inch pine board at 100 yards), its virtually silent operation and its ability to fire many shots without reloading it would have been extremely intimidating even to people who were familiar with black powder weapons, much less those who had never so much as seen a firearm.

So it is obvious that the Founders, being highly intelligent and well-educated men, must have been aware of the many sorts of “high powered” and “high capacity” weapons available at that time. In addition, they were aware of the progress science had made in the previous few centuries and fully expected invention and innovation to continue, as demonstrated by the Constitution’s Copyright Clause:

To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries.

So I maintain that it is downright insulting to claim that the Founders would have been unable to predict that there would be changes and developments in weapons, which probably explains why they used the general term “arms” instead of specifying particular weapons that were to be protected.

And then Bill drags out the bloody shirt, claiming:

I think the framers of the Constitution would recoil in horror were they to see the carnage now being wreaked on the people of the United States in the name of the Second Amendment, most especially the tragedy in Newtown.

I think it is far more likely that Bill would recoil in horror at the 25 – 50% infant mortality rate in the mid-1700s than that the Founders would so recoil at the “carnage” of 3.97 CGHs per 100,000.

But wait! Bill’s a gunny too!

Having said that, let me add that I see nothing wrong with owning a firearm. I haven’t owned one in more than 50 years, but I used to do some hunting, and I was also a member of the NRA. Rifles, pistols and shotguns, any one of which should be sufficient to protect one’s family, self, and property, should be enough.

No Bill, you don’t get to decide what is sufficient to protect my family. And you know what? Neither does the DHS (regardless of their recent AR-15 epiphany), the DoJ, the ATF, MAIG, VPC or any other smegging alphabetic group.

My loved ones, my responsibility, my choice of weapons. Deal with it.