Dear Gun Rights Crazies: While, like Charlton Heston, you may clutch your firearms in your hands, insisting your hands will have to be cold and dead before those firearms will be taken from them, the simple fact is no one is coming for your guns. It’s your wallets we’re drawing a bead on. Inside your wallets, nestling snugly with the money there, is responsibility. To you, it’s invisible. All you see is the money. But, each time you’re forced to reach for that money – to spend it on things you have a moral obligation to spend them on – whether you like it or not, you are “taking responsibility” for something. You’re meeting an obligation or a debt. You know there will be consequences if you fail to meet that obligation. Ever have to pay for mortgage insurance? That’s the bank (who actually owns your house) insisting you do something responsible (from their pov). Miss a few house payments, the house will officially become theirs.
Well, what’s good for the home is good for the hearth. Responsibility should absolutely begin at home. The time has come to force EVERY gun owner to purchase liability insurance – to take responsibility for their compulsion to “own” a death machine.
One of the dumber arguments to pop up whack-a-mole style in any gun debate is “cars kill people too”. That’s dumb in two ways, not just one. For starters, cars are designed – from the ground up – to transport its user from point A to point B. The designers considered things like how to propel the vehicle, how to steer it, how to stop it. If their machine can’t do that, they got nothing. Guns, on the other hand, were designed from the ground up to do one thing: kill living beings as efficiently as possible.
The first gun’s designer (in 1oth century China) was trying to solve that problem because the current technologies – close hand combat with swords and lances or longer range combat with bows and arrows – were kinda old. 1132 – the Siege of De’an – that’s where everything changed. It’s the first time (that we know of) where firearms are used in battle against “conventional weapons”. Guess who won? Yeah, the guy with the gun.
Guns kill because they’re designed to kill. Always were. Always will be. Guns and cars do not equate.
Second reason why “cars kill too” is stupider than stupid? It’s because cars can kill (and destroy things) accidentally that we force all drivers – by law – to have auto insurance. If they don’t, they can be prosecuted and sued. No one complains about it because we all know it’s a reasonable thing to demand of people. And – quick reminder – cars aren’t designed to hurt anyone (let alone kill them); anything non transpo related that the car does is outside its design specs.
Now, as to whether or not gun ownership’s a right, I have one simple question requiring a simple “yes” or “no” answer: “Does the word ‘own’ appear anywhere in the 2A?” Any answer beside “yes” or “no” is dishonest. Mostly, the parsing begins immediately: “What about ‘keep and bear’?” is the knee jerk. The question was “is own there?”. The answer’s no.
Neither “keep” nor “bear” equals “own”. You can keep and bear things you don’t own. They’re called “rentals”. Like the care you lease or the apartment you call home. Or any piece of equipment that stays in your house – or in your possession – but to which you do not own the title (or the receipt of purchase) – actual ownership. Let’s use the word “contract”. In a contract, can “keep” and “bear” ever be used the same way as “own”? Hell no!
In contract law, the definition of “own” is one thing while the definitions of “keep”, “bear” and even “possess” are something different. They can appear like “own” on the surface, but, down deep, at the foundations, none of those three (keep, bear or possess) crosses the Rubicon into actual OWNERSHIP. There is a difference. Even Antonin Scalia understood that fact.
In “Heller“, Scalia says “you don’t have to be part of a militia in order to keep and bear arms”. In his summation, Scalia substitutes the word “possess” for “keep and bear”. He does that for a very particular reason. Now, observe this simple fact: not only does the word “own” not appear anywhere in the 2A, it appears nowhere in Scalia’s Heller decision. So – you don’t have to be part of a militia to keep and bear a firearm. But, even in Heller, Scalia still doesn’t say – he can’t – that the individual walking around with all the firearms he wants OWNS those firearms.
Scalia walks right up to the word “own” and stops before crossing fully into it. I bet he knew (having looked it up) that in some dictionaries, a definition of the word “own” is “possess”. Without pointing to this fact, Scalia is balancing his entire argument (about gun ownership) on this – that one of the dictionary definitions of “own” is “possess”.
The reason Scalia can’t point to the fact that he’s false equivalencing these two words is because, in order to do that, he’d have to point out that the word “own” isn’t in the 2A – but if you tilt your head hard to the left, looking up and at an uncomfortable angle with the wind blowing just so, you can kinda see “own” in the distance. Scalia knew it was an untenable can of worms – to use the word “own” in his opinion. He would have pointed out Warren Berger’s argument that there IS NO ENUMERATED RIGHT OF INDIVIDUAL GUN OWNERSHIP anywhere in the Constitution or the 2A. Gun ownership resides with the militias.
Madison, when he wrote the 2A wasn’t thinking about individual gun “owners”. He was trying to mitigate between state power and federal power. The states were still fearful of centralized power overwhelming them. Each state was given the means to defend itself via its militias. These days, we call them the National Guard. We still follow Madison’s words there: when you show up for National Guard duty, you don’t take your own weapons. The Guard (the militia) does that. And then you get to keep and bear those arms for the duration of your National Guard service. At the end of your service, you turn in your firearms and go home – gunless.
Alas, “taking” the four hundred million guns now in private hands in America would literally be impossible. But that doesn’t mean we can’t make having those guns super expensive. If responsible gun owners really want to be responsible, they have to do this – and many gun owners support having to insure their firearms. On January 25, 2022, the city of San Jose, CA became the first community in America to mandate that homeowners and renters who possess firearms insure those firearms for liability. Now, while that ordinance faces legal challenges, we can make those legal challenges vanish simply by rewriting the law.
Changing gun laws will require more Democratic representation at every level of government from the national all the way down to the localest local. I think that’s about to happen for myriad reasons. Yeah, yeah, yeah – “polling” says wipeout for the Dems. But the polling, while capturing the profound unhappiness and anger in the country, still sees this profound happiness in a normal context that will have normal ramifications. We have never lived through times like now. The instant Trump was handed the 2016 election (I believe we’ll begin to question his “win”), America set sail into the “never been here before”.
We are fighting “America’s Civil War, Season Two”. It’s all the same racism and white hegemony except now with social media. And even more guns. The slavers want slavery back. They may not be able to pay the workers literally nothing – as if they were literal slaves – but wages insufficient to live on is “slavery adjacent”. That’s not an accident.
We need to find quick ways to stop gun violence in its track – a tough, tough ask. But not undo-able. And the answer, I believe, lies here: making having guns so expensive – because of the insurance – that most current gun owners pare down the firearms in their possession or even get rid of them entirely. Every crime committed by a firearm will trigger a legal response. Each firearm discharge needs to be accounted for (just so we know it didn’t hurt anyone and if it did that the people impacted were fairly compensated).
Another way to think of it: if I use my phone to research rental cars, the rental car companies will suddenly beat down my door to try and get me to rent from them. Somehow, information flowed quickly from me to the wider world where people wanting to sell me something saw an open door to do exactly that. If we have the technology to track my shopping queries (never mind purchases!), we have the tech to track guns and gun owners and whether or not THEIR guns are responsible for killing or hurting anyone.
Being “responsible gun owners”, I assume they’d want it that way, too. Just for the record? I chuckled as I wrote that.