By Stan Harvey
Yes, I said it…now bear with me and resist the urge to grab a nearby trashcan for the nausea caused by hearing that oft-repeated phrase. Anti-gunners often try to monopolize terms, and I’m advocating we reclaim this one. In the dominant political squabble over guns and gun laws, a giant elephant in the room is totally ignored. In the patchwork collection of gun laws to come out of our government over the past century, hardly anyof it deserves to be called “common sense” . . .
This goes far beyond guns, it touches on basic American values under threat that most citizens can appreciate when the debate is framed in the proper way. Many of us can relate to having a friend or family member who, despite being an otherwise rational person, succumbs to the fear based arguments against guns. In my experience, sometimes you can reach these people when you point out how totally inane or destructive most gun laws are, and the dangers to freedom posed by enforcement agencies without adequate oversight or checks.
We should all be able to agree that regardless of belief, laws should make sense and they should be results oriented. The battle over gun rights is largely a war of attrition, and if we are constantly stuck on the defensive our rights slowly erode away. It’s time we push for REAL common sense in our gun laws.
Anti-gunners are generally wrong on the facts, yet even they are hard pressed to defend much of existing law as being rational. Take, for example, the 1934 National Firearms Act. It is rarely discussed in modern politics despite being highly ineffective at what it set out to do. It didn’t single-handedly end the prohibition fueled gang violence, ending prohibition did. I have yet to hear any compelling argument why a rifle with a 15.99” barrel magically becomes more dangerous than when it has a 16” barrel.
What about if we take uncle Joe’s advice and keep a shotgun for home defense? It’s not very comforting to know that a 12 gauge is not considered a destructive device only due to it being deemed “generally recognized as particularly suitable for sporting purposes”. A public official advocating wildly shooting into the air is not very comforting either, but that’s another topic.
When a gun law in Europe looks rational by comparison, you’re doing it wrong. Our approach to sound suppressors is harmful and pointless and in contrast some European countries allow much easier access to them even when the guns themselves are harder to get. I would appreciate not risking permanent hearing damage if, god forbid, I had to use deadly force against an intruder in my home. Hearing loss from shooting is a well documented problem, and it should be a “common sense” reform to allow unregulated access to devices that help protect the user’s hearing.
I have gotten befuddled looks and even concessions from anti-gunners in arguments where even they have to admit that many of the current gun laws are rationally indefensible. The debate could still be had about whether machine guns should be limited in some way, or whether or not civilians should be able to own RPGs, but at the very least we should all be able to agree that the clearly arbitrary laws should be eliminated.
A just system of law requires a clear set of rules. Even people who dislike guns should be concerned about entrenched bureaucratic power undermining the democratic process. The BATFE is a textbook example of out-of-control, unaccountable government.
It may be a low bar, but how many anti-gunners do you know who could defend the idea that a shoestring can be a machine gun with a straight face? Is it too much to ask to have a comprehensible code of laws so a citizen can be certain whether they are in compliance with it or not? Is it “common sense” that the process approving gun designs is secretive and that contradictory standards are given by the BATFE?
It’s much harder to defend these positions than it is to parrot emotional arguments for gun control, and we let them get away with it by allowing them to control the dialogue and put us on the defensive. It’s not just about how we should be able to put a vertical foregrip on a pistol, or build a pistol on a receiver that was previously part of a rifle without risking a decade in federal prison. It’s about having a government that is accountable to the people and doesn’t selectively determine and apply vague laws.
Enforcement agencies should not be allowed overly broad discretion in interpreting the law, or to drop prosecutions in order to avoid setting precedents. These actions fundamentally go against the values our country was founded on, and should upset us all regardless of our personal views on guns.
So the next time you hear somebody mention “common sense gun reform”, remember that they don’t get to own that term and point out how what they support is anything but. These laws clearly inhibit and harm law abiding gun owners without causing much concern for criminals. The least we can do is all come together to agree that despite our differences we mustn’t lose sight of the values that made this country great. Now THAT should be common sense.