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Guns – it’s not about “principle”…

Here’s a typical blog comment on the subject of guns:

“The constitution can’t be much clearer – you have a right to bear arms”

Honestly I don’t argue that position – our forefathers were concerned about the fact that the British were confiscating their arms and they wanted to encode the right to overthrow a corrupt government.

However “gun rights” advocates also pretend this is an unambiguous and purely principled position, which it is not.

For instance, unlike in the days of our forefathers asymmetric warfare didn’t exist to the level it does today. It wasn’t possible to easily take out a building with a truckfull of fertilizer and some diesel. Moreover many of the weapons today couldn’t have even been contemplated.

Seriously, does the NRA or anyone of their ilk honestly believe you should be able to personally own?:

  • Stinger missiles
  • M1 Abrams tanks
  • Grenades
  • Apache attack helicopters
  • Daisy Cutters
  • Fully loaded F-18 attack fighters
  • Nuclear bombs

Clearly there are at least a few of those “arms” that even NRA members would agree that the “public interest” outweighs your right to “bear”. If not, I’m sorry but they are insane and undoubtedly there are some citizen jihadists who’d love to help forward the NRA’s agenda.

The point is, we do assign some “public interest” limitations to all rights granted by the Constitution. So if we agree that prohibiting owning a “Daisy Cutter” is a reasonable limitation to the “2nd Amendment”, then are we not saying. “It’s not strictly about principled literalism – there is room for interpretation/limitation.” Once we’ve agreed that there is some interpretation/limitation, then the “principled” argument is compromised and we’re just negotiating where the lines fall.

So, if we can sanely deny the right to an “M1 Abrams” as an unreasonable arm (which I certainly would hope we can), then why shouldn’t we be allowed to consider limiting hand guns, which in many people’s mind represent a similar risk to a peaceable society? If one returns then to the argument that the “2nd Ammendment” says such and such, then I would argue, “Ok – let the crazies buy the nukes too.” That’s idealism and principle for you.

Finally, clearly we can abridge the 1st Amendment, “Freedom of Speech”, and not allow vulgar language and/or porn on TV/radio. Certainly swear words and porn cause much less harm then a bullet to the head and yet we have little issue abridging our “1st Amendment” rights to them. Personally, when the NRA members decry that fact as much as their inability to own assault rifles, then I’ll take their “principled” stance more seriously.


One thing that annoys me about pro-gun types is that they don’t have the balls to be at least honest about it. They want to have their guns not only because they like them, but also because they want the option to overthrow the government. That latter point they seem to curiously omit in general argument, I suspect because it might not go over so well with the soccer moms who are often the victims of the fear campaigns used to sell their inalienable rights to bear arms.


Guns are fun. I don’t argue it. I enjoy shooting and at some level wouldn’t mind owning a handgun myself (my wife, who comes from a more sane country where guns aren’t like so much candy, would use it on me if I ever did though). I also have friends who have guns and I don’t think they’re evil people, not in the slightest. I just am trying to make the point there is a middle ground here, that the Constitutional “guarantee” to “bear arms”, like all Constitutional guarantees, is subject to reasonable limitations. Where those limitations are, is what we need to figure out. Moreover that solution, whatever it is, will not rest on strict literalist principle, but rather on negotiated compromise. It won’t be because “it says”, but because “we agree”.


I will also note, and this was part of the “right to bear arms” shtick, our forefathers did not want a “standing army” either!

The constitution can’t be much clearer – you have a right to bear arms

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