My position on gun control was challenged during a recent conversation. I believe gun control is keeping your rounds on target. I believe that the Constitution is my carry permit. The person I was talking to disagreed, though. He asked me if private citizens should be allowed to own nuclear weapons. I believe that whatever arms an infantry soldier would typically carry is roughly the space the 2nd Amendment contemplates. Does this include grenades? Good question. How about a grenade launcher? Another good question. How about a crew-served automatic weapon, like an M60 or SAW. Lots of good questions . . .
The 2nd Amendment has had both a social and personal purposes. By being armed, citizens can, as a last resort, protect themselves against assault. The McDonald decision clarified the legitimacy of self-defense as a component of the 2nd Amendment. For a nation without a standing army, having a nation full of gun owners whose rifles were the equivalent to their potential enemies. During the War of 1812, I’ll bet regimental commanders would have welcomed mustering militiamen showing up with grapeshot, canister and a cannon from their private stores.
Our Founders had a deep and abiding distrust of a government that grows too large, and developed a constitution that severely limited federal power. They broke that power up into three parts just to make sure it didn’t accumulate in any one branch. Further, the 2nd Amendment was a key component of limiting that power because it protected the means of insurrection. State militias could muster men who were the equivalent of any regular Federal unit in arms and numbers if not experience and tactics. American culture has always had within it the idea that the people could overthrow an illegitimate or oppressive government.
My personal store of ammo and arms doesn’t make me the equal of a 20-year-old infantryman. While I could muster 10 stout men with rifles and about 300 rounds each, an Army squad of 10 has fully automatic weapons, battle armor, air support grenades and artillery. Not to mention the billion rounds of ammo stockpiled by the government.
They can also probably climb a flight of stairs without getting winded. To defeat a regiment of federal regulars would likely take a 10 to 1 ratio of patriots and even then we can only hope they treat American citizens with the kind of deference given the Taliban, whose nighttime bomb planting was left unimpeded lest gunfire wake the neighbors.
If one function of the 2nd Amendment was to provide a citizen check on government power (something even the Occupy St. Louis hippies understood when I asked them), and the people are already substantially outgunned by the government, then it follows that making that imbalance greater is going in the wrong direction. Without ever answering the question of should a citizen be allowed to own grenades, a chain gun or an ICBMW (that’s an Intercontinental Ballistic Missile in a Winnebago), we can certainly say that, at a minimum, a citizen ought not be limited to a seven round magazine for his semi-automatic weapon when a GI carries 30 for his full auto rifle. Can’t we?