Robert Scroggins of Edina, MN has penned a letter (remember those?) to the Minnesota Strib. It’s brief, but packs a huge number of misconceptions, errors and outright falsehoods in a really small space. He gets off on the wrong foot with this gem, “The Second Amendment guarantees the right to own and bear arms, and I am not against hunters, sportsmen and people who want self-protection from exercising those rights. But government has a right and a duty to protect innocent people.” That’s mighty big of you Bob, allowing me to exercise my natural, fundamental, and inalienable human, individual, civil, and Constitutional rights, but, here’s a news flash . . .
I don’t need your permission. I do, however, give you points for realizing that the Bill of Rights generally, and the Second Amendment specifically, protects pre-existing rights rather than “granting” them. Unfortunately, Bob, you lose all those points by continuing with your train of thought.
Just to be clear, governments don’t have rights, governments have powers. And while you may believe government has a moral duty to protect people, it doesn’t have the legal duty to do so. Numerous court cases have dealt with this question and numerous courts have ruled that while the police have a duty to protect society as a whole, they don’t have any duty to individuals.
One of the most recent cases, Castle Rock v. Gonzales, is very telling. Briefly, Ms. Gonzales had a restraining order against her husband. One evening he took the children without permission (in violation of the order). But when Ms. Gonzales called the police she was told to call back if they weren’t home by 10:00 p.m.. She called the police several more times, once with her husband’s location and was brushed off each time. The police finally located him when he pulled up in front of the station and started shooting at it. The police returned fire, killing him, and discovered the bodies of the children who he had killed earlier.
Here’s the kicker, though: at the time, Colorado had a law requiring police to enforce restraining orders, but the Supreme Court ruled that neither the department nor the officers were liable even though they made no attempt to follow that law.
Are we clear the whole ‘duty to protect’ thing, Bob?
But government has a right and a duty to protect innocent people from being slaughtered by those who, by any reasonable criteria, should not be able to acquire weapons that can only be used to kill people.
I’m pretty sure everyone here is familiar with my views on the subject of people who shouldn’t have access to guns. David Codrea put it best when he said, “If a person can’t be trusted with a firearm then they can’t be trusted without a custodian.” So I’d disagree with that whole “should not be able to acquire weapons” thing, but more importantly, what would Scroggins have us do? Neither the Aurora gunman nor the Sikh temple shooter met any of the criteria of a “prohibited person” nor are there any “reasonable criteria” I can see (short of calling in the Psychic Friends Network) which could have been used as an excuse to preemptively deprive them of their rights.
Which brings us to that “weapons that can only be used to kill people” thing. I mean Wikipedia defines a weapon as “a tool or instrument used in order to inflict damage or harm to living beings—physical or mental—artificial structures, or systems.” Dictionary.com’s primary definition is “any instrument or device for use in attack or defense in combat, fighting, or war, as a sword, rifle, or cannon.” I’m guessing Bob means the Evil Black Rifle “assault weapon” (i.e. semi-auto rifle) used by the Aurora shooter. Except, they aren’t used solely to kill people.
Or does Robert use journalistic criteria to tell the difference between an “assault weapon”
and a “patrol rifle”?
In case you are confused too, it’s simple; if it is being held by a cop it’s a patrol rifle, if by a civilian, then it is an “assault weapon.” Got it?
And Bob might ask Korean shop owners who lived through the L.A. riots in 1991 whether they “needed” those ugly black “assault weapons” for self-defense.
Scroggins concludes with this contradiction in terms:
It is time for politicians to stand up against this slaughter of innocent Americans and pass reasonable gun control laws that will not infringe upon our Second Amendment rights.
Funny, but I can’t think of a single politician who has come out in favor of the “slaughter of innocent Americans” so Robert is making an assertion completely unsupported by any evidence. To wit, that there exists some sort of “reasonable gun control law(s)” the passage of which will have any effect on these sorts of mass shootings.
Remember the Cumbria shootings which left as many dead as the Aurora shooting? For the geographically challenged, Cumbria is in Great Britain, home to some of some of the toughest gun laws in the world. Furthermore they were carried out with a double-barreled 12 ga. shotgun and a bolt-action .22 – nary a modern black sporting rifle to be found.
As for passing “reasonable gun control laws that will not infringe upon our Second Amendment rights,” there just ain’t no such animal. 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. But thanks for the input, Bob.
 L. Neil Smith: Letter to a liberal colleague