In the wake of the Supreme Court’s recent decision to overturn Oak Park’s handgun ban, there have been calls, from both sides, for a community-wide dialogue between gun defenders and gun regulators.
Presuming both sides are sincere and open to hearing opposing points of view, I thought I’d get things started.
Second Amendment supporters seem to have three reasons for defending gun ownership:
1) Recreational use (comparable to the right to keep and bear fishing tackle);
2) Self-defense (the right to protect family and property from criminals); and
3) Revolution (should our government ever become so tyrannical that a second Declaration of Independence is in order).
The conservative Supreme Court majority, which claims to be able to divine the “original intent” of the Constitution’s framers, seemed to base their recent vote primarily on the right of citizens to defend their homes against criminals, in spite of the fact that the framers devoted the entire first half of the Second Amendment to the words, “A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state …”
The defense of Second Amendment rights, therefore, really boils down to the fact that gun defenders don’t feel safe in their homes and want to be able to keep handguns in order to defend themselves. Have I overstated this? I don’t think so.
Strange as it may sound, gun defenders and gun regulators have more in common than they realize. Just as gun defenders don’t feel safe in their homes, gun regulators don’t feel safe in their “home,” which they would define more broadly as the entire community. Gun regulators are more concerned about gun use on the streets outside their individual homes. This basically correlates with the different ways conservatives and progressives perceive the world. Conservatives are individualists who worry more about their own property than the overall community. Progressives worry more about the overall community than their individual property. Conservatives also have concerns about the community and progressives about their property, obviously. It’s just a matter of emphasis.
But what both sides have in common is a desire to feel safe in their “home.” Progressives say guns in the home tend to find their way onto the streets. Conservatives say guns on the street tend to find their way into their home.
Is there a way for both sides to feel safe? Can we dialogue our way to win-win?
Progressives generally think freedom of speech is more important than any other, but even they would admit you can’t shout “Fire!” in a crowded theater. Conservatives seem to think freedom to keep and bear arms is more important than any other, but at least some are willing to admit you don’t need a rocket-launcher to go hunting and that deadly weapons should be subject to some limits.
The Second Amendment, after all, doesn’t say we have the right to “keep and bear any and all arms at all times in all places and the more the merrier.” The founding fathers wisely left those details up to us to decide. Reasonable citizens should be able to agree on how to effectively and safely regulate gun ownership and use.
With rights come responsibility, the conservatives are always preaching. If that’s true, then gun defenders have a responsibility to work with gun regulators to come up with restrictions that will help all of us feel safe in our communities, not just in our individual homes.
That should make sense even to members of the National Rifle Association – which is not, I’d like to point out, the National Rifle and Handgun Association.
The Oak Park handgun ban never applied to rifles, so gun defenders can’t really say their right to keep and bear arms was “infringed.” The village simply wanted to limit the guns that do most of the killings in a country where gun deaths vastly outnumber firearm fatalities in all other developed nations. That’s a legitimate concern for public safety.
It seems to me that gun defenders are perfectly capable of defending their homes with a rifle. Those hiding behind the Second Amendment have a responsibility, therefore, to answer the most important question:
Why, exactly, do you need a handgun?