Thursday, March 29, 2007

Gun Nuts and the District of Columbia

Recently, a D.C. Court declared that the district's ban on keeping handguns at home is unconstitutional. In response, the pro-torture National Review organized a symposium that showed as much diversity as a Bush administration public event. The tenor of the opinion was that the Court was right to toss aside the ban, that the decision was a "masterful treatise", a restoration of "full constitution freedom" for DC, and would even help foster the "rights consciousness" of the American people (doesn't that sound vaguely Marxist?).

What you do not hear is talk of activist judges reading broad rights into the Constitution that are patently not there (since when did every gun nut with an SUV and suburban house constitute a "well-regulated militia"?). You do not hear attacks on courts thumbing their nose at the democratic wishes of the people. Yet so-called conservatives make these arguments quite vociferously in other cases, such as when the right to privacy was deemed to encompass the right to abortion. Sadly, opposition to "judicial activism" is not a principle, but merely a rhetorical device to support one's ideological agenda.

Of all the opinions expressed on the National Review symposium, the most laughable comes from John Lott, who notes that "the nation’s strictest gun-control laws, gun-control advocates have been embarrassed that the city has frequently had the highest murder rate of any large city in the U.S". Hence gun control does not deter crime! Given that there are no border controls in place between DC and Virginia, this is an utterly ridiculous argument. If you want real numbers, compare gun deaths in the United States and countries with broad based gun control measures. I raised this issue before, and here are the numbers again:
Gun-related deaths per 100,000 people:
U.S.A. 14.24; Brazil 12.95; Mexico 12.69; Argentina 8.93; Finland 6.46; Switzerland 5.31; France 5.15; Canada 4.31; Norway 3.82; Austria 3.70; Portugal 3.20; Israel 2.91; Belgium 2.90; Australia 2.65; Italy 2.44; New Zealand 2.38; Denmark 2.09; Sweden 1.92; Greece 1.29; Germany 1.24; Ireland 0.97; Spain 0.78; Netherlands 0.70; Scotland 0.54; England and Wales 0.41; Taiwan 0.37; Singapore 0.21; Hong Kong 0.14; South Korea 0.12; Japan 0.05.

There are many hypotheses for the high rate of gun deaths in the United States. Some point to the legacy of the Wild West, others to the acceptability of violence as a response to problems, others to a popular culture that glorifies violence, and others still to the greater diversity that breeds tensions. Whatever the reason, dishing out guns to people in such an environment is an act of gross irresponsibility. It's not an issue of "freedom" (most countries on the list above are at least as "free" as the United States), but rather a part of the gospel of life.

3 comments:

Northerner said...

What you do not hear is talk of activist judges reading broad rights into the Constitution that are patently not there (since when did every gun nut with an SUV and suburban house constitute a "well-regulated militia"?).

What about the "right of the people to bear arms shall not be infringed" is "patently not there"? (You seem to have read the prefatory clause of the Second Amendment, but if you'd read any scholarship on the Second Amendment, or even the court decision itself, you'd be aware that there's a very good argument that prefatory clause doesn't limit the actual right to bear arms -- let alone make that right "patently not there," as you suggest.)

Antonio Manetti said...

From Wikipedia:

"Relative to the "bear arms" meanings, an extensive study found " ...that the overwhelming preponderance of usage of 300 examples of the "bear arms" expression in public discourse in early America was in an unambiguous, explicitly military context in a figurative (and euphemistic) sense to stand for military service"[35] Further, the Oxford English Dictionary on Historical Principles declares that a meaning of "to bear arms" is a figurative usage meaning "to serve as a soldier, do military service, fight"."

Franklin Jennings said...

Actually, according to federal law, every able-bodied male between the ages of 18 and 60 is a member of the irregular militia of his state.

SUVs and Suburban houses have nothing to do with it.

But to be frank, when I hear you are living in one of the poorer urban neighborhoods of a major American metropolis, I'll care what you think on the subject. In the meantime, I will take steps to help ensure the safety of those in my care, including making sure everyone here knows how to safely fire any of the scatterguns parked in key areas of the house, since the police aren't willing or able to do the job we pay them for.

And I don't really care if some comfortable middle class leftist has an apoplectic fit over it.