Politrix: Gun Play

Last week, the United States Supreme Court lifted the ban on handgun ownership in Washington, D.C. “Who cares?” you might heckle, as you likely don’t live in the Chocolate City, but I submit that you should care: The ruling in District of Columbia v. Heller marks the first real attempt in more than 70 years to clarify what owning a handgun really means-and it has national ramifications.

The amendment in question reads: “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” That’s it. And that ambiguous, awkwardly punctuated little sentence has been the subject of much discussion as folks on both sides of the gun debate have tried to suss out what the drafters of the Bill of Rights actually intended. Does it just mean that we can grab guns as part of an organized army to protect the country, or that we can all pick up a shotty for the hell of it?

I have to admit, I’ve never really given it much thought before; gun arguments are for the rednecks living in log cabins in the boonies, eating what they kill and shooting darkies who set foot on their property, not 20-something chicas living in tiny apartments in the big city, eating what they can grab at Whole Foods and trying to keep the man’s foot off their necks. But it’s living in that very same big city that has made me give this issue some thought-three people were shot within eight blocks of my home Memorial Day weekend, and that makes me a wee bit nervous. How are these cats getting these guns, and what makes them comfortable shooting my neighbors for fun?

The Supreme Court’s ruling (a 5-4 split decision, led by conservative justice Antonin Scalia) finds that the amendment grants the right for individuals to own handguns “unconnected with service in a militia” and makes it illegal to restrict licensed ownership for most people (felons and the mentally ill are excluded). It also says that laws that require trigger locks for guns are unconstitutional, as they might prevent the owner from using the gun “for the purpose of immediate self-defense.”

Word? So what about the fact that very trigger lock keeps unwitting children who find said gun from blowing off their own heads? Or the statistics that show that owning a gun triples your chance of being killed in your home and quintuples the likelihood of suicide? Or the fact that said gun is 22 times more likely to be used to kill a family member or friend than to kill in self-defense?

For real, I don’t have a problem with people owning guns; I have a problem with how they handle them and what they use them for, so the fact that this ruling confirms that we can all own guns doesn’t disturb me. The vagueness of the ruling, however, does concern me. While Scalia notes that “the Second Amendment does not protect those weapons not typically possessed by law-abiding citizens for lawful purposes, such as short-barreled shotguns,” that’s all he says. I for one feel that there is absolutely no reason to purchase an automatic weapon (think anything a bad guy might carry in a movie) for the sake of protecting their home; a semi-automatic or an unmodified shotgun should do nicely. But the good justices did not elaborate enough to give lawmakers a standard to go by when replacing the numerous laws that will now be struck down as a result of this ruling.

I’m not the only one who laments the lack of specificity. In a dissenting opinion, Justice John Paul Stevens, who many consider to be the liberal leader of the court, wrote: “A conclusion that the Second Amendment protects an individual right does not tell us anything about the scope of that right.” He, and the three other justices who joined him, also feels that it is an incorrect conclusion to draw, that the amendment clearly says that we can bear arms within the structure of the military. This decision amounts to a taking away of the right of the legislators to “regulate the civilian use and misuse of firearms,” says Stevens.

So while the judges and the legislators try to figure out through trial-and-error which state and local laws are unconstitutional, and which guns are suitable for home use, and how we can legally protect our children from accidental shootings, and how we can prevent guns from falling into criminal hands, we will live in a world of potentially dangerous ambiguity. And as an Aries, there’s nothing I hate more than ambiguity.

What do you think about this ruling?


If you like Kenrya’s opinion, check out the rest of her posts here.

Currently listening to: “I Gave You Power” by Nas

Last 5 posts by Parlour

  • Diane

    Well, let’s talk Eve Carson – a twenty-something… killt by shot gun blasts after being abducted from her apartment and forced to give them her ATM info so they could get $1400 over two days from her account. We still don’t know if she was sexually assaulted. Both are repeat offenders.

    One of the ‘alleged’ perps killt a grad student at his apartment not a couple of weeks before.

    Alleged perp is 17 years old.

    This is NOT the boonies, we’re talkin UNC/Chapel Hill and Duke University-ish off campus housing.

    These ‘alleged’ cretins live outside the the Constitution – they get their guns illegally and will continue to do so. Let’s not lump criminals and law-abiding citizens together.

    Law-abiding citizens: Now, if you want to get a licensed handgun, and you have kids in your home, well, regardless of laws, a safety lock is a good thing. BUT IT’s UP TO YOU. Not the government. People aren’t always bright. I think it’s horrible that kids get a hold of guns and go and blow away themselves or their friends. But to have to make laws to save people from themselves – breeds a welfare state where no one thinks for themselves.

    I am tired, seriously, of the lawsuits and the whining — TAKE RESPONSIBILITY America. Rockland Cty. – two boys, at night, walking train tracks, in the rain. They are hit. Now the suits begin because the tracks aren’t all fenced in, blah blah… HELLOOOOO Sorry not gun control, but you get where I come from.

    RESPONSIBILITY. You cannot legislate that.

    Now the neighbor in TX. – on the phone with the cops saying his neighbor’s house is being robbed. He tells the dispatcher they are getting away and he doesn’t want that to happen. The dispatcher says ‘let them go.’ Man decides no, and shoots the robbers (not alleged, caught in the act). He is acquitted. He is remorseful. However, did he do the right thing? If it was his house, would it have been different? Defending one’s property is ok, but what about your peeps?

    HHMMM? That’s interesting and far more legislat-able than trying to save people from themselves. If you want a firearm as protection – maybe it should be mandatory that you take a class – like you do for driving. But after that, just like with driving, you’re on your own. You can be wise, or not. But it’s YOUR responsibility.

    You cannot prevent criminals from obtaining things.

    No one can make a law to protect an innocent from being harmed. It’s the responsibility of the firearm owner to BE RESPONSIBLE. If they are not, it’s tragic, it’s horrible, but … it’s not the fault of the law or lack of a law.

    So where do I stand? I’ve thought about owning. Why? Because no matter where I live, a criminal can too easily drive, ride a train/bus, walk – to my safe haven. Their free will (their intent to do illegal activity) can harm me – maybe I’d be lucky and it’s only burglary, but it could become much, much more and then what? Can I get close enough to swing the bat, the knife blade, the sock with pennies in it? Or can I stand back, aim, and hope, if nothing else, I scare them out of my haven?

    I don’t know. But no Justices or law enforcement is gonna be there should this happen TO ME – so it’s really ON ME to do what I FEEL is right IN MY HOME.

    Laws cannot prevent criminals from doing criminal activity. They don’t even deter any more. And I, for one, don’t want to be a statistic lying in a morgue. Would I put on a safety latch? Natch. Would I hide it? Natch. Except when I’d be most vulnerable, like sleeping. Would I LEARN TO USE IT? Natch.

    OK, but I’m an exception. I take responsibility.

  • Hmmm, this is tricky when it comes to the constitution but it is just an undeniable fact that most people who buy guns only for “protection” wind up being the victims of the very guns they bought to protect themselves. It’s almost like a self fulfilling prophecy. In the rap song you chose to feature, Nas, who has most likely owned and operated a gun before in his life addresses the very real power that guns posses beyond their bullets. It’s like having a gun immediately shifts power dynamics in society, hence all the police officers thinking they can use Black & Brown people for target practice.