No one cares about the 3rd Amendment.
I'm serious. I'm willing to bet most of you, without going to Wikipedia, can even say what it covers (it's lodging of soldiers without consent of the property owner). It's not a point of contention and something we don't run into every day.
We're much more concerned with the 5th, the 8th and the 1st Amendments. Some people are very concerned with the 10th. But nothing riles people up as much as conversation about the 2nd.
On December 10th, Jon Stewart addressed this with the clarity that only the jesters can bring to the king's court. He played clips from Fox News discussing when and who should not be talking gun politics. In the wake of tragedy was verbotten. So was speech about guns if you were not specifically a gun expert. But as gun related tragedies seem to come daily, when will the conversation ever be on the table?
As much as Fox News is a flawed and biased source of information, there is some wisdom to the idea that one should wait until the blood has cooled to discuss a matter. The Patriot Act was passed in the wake of tragedy, and we've seen what that has gotten us, which is to say with no more security, but with more than a slight eroding of our freedoms. We pay our politicians to be cool heads, even when faced with turbulent times, but it seems that they are rarely up to the task. Still, if we are going to talk about guns, it has to be done rationally, calmly and dispassionately as possible.
Also, while one need not be a 20 year veteran shooter and gunsmith to talk guns, we should have some idea what we're talking about, not just in terms of firearms terminology and specifics, but also in terms of understanding the rate of homicide, suicide and accidental deaths with guns as well as how they are used to save lives and protect people from harm.
Part of the issue is, on the last point, very little unbiased information is available. The CDC publishes statistics about deaths and how they are caused, but they don't really cover incidents where guns come into play, but are neither discharged nor used to harm anyone. One side will tout 600,000 to 2.5 million defensive gun uses per year while the other side will claim that you are 43 times more likely to shoot yourself than an intruder, even when both of those statistics are flawed if not outright misleading and of limited value. The simple lack of raw data is a barrier.
But even without access to objective information, there must be some things we can address, if we can just talk about it rationally but an additional complication, sadly, is that we differ on where to start. The pro-control side of the argument usually starts at banning or restricting firearms or magazines of what they consider to be an excessive capacity, as well as additional licensing, while the pro-gun side of the argument advocates enforcing laws on the books without really offering an solutions as to how that should happen.
And still, people die in wholly preventable circumstances.
So is now the time to discuss the politics of firearms? I personally think it's as good as any.
If we're going to talk about it I think people should remember that there already has been some change over the past 200 years. Under the most strict interpretation of the 2nd Amendment, one should be able to own a nuclear bomber, but we limit ownership to personal arms. Even there, we place restrictions, ranging from additional permits out outright bans, on the sorts one can own, both on a Federal and State level. In most states where one can attain a concealed carry license, there are restrictions as to where you can carry it.
These are not particularly onerous burdens and some of them are quite defensible, those some of the mentioned provisions are less common sense than you'd think. Still, they exist and they are, in the minds of many gun owners, as far as they are willing to go when it comes to restrictions on type and accessibility of firearms. So if type and accessibility are met with stone faced unwillingness to budge, what is left?
We can argue that we should push on despite the objections. I think if we do that, we get nowhere.
We can discuss how better to refine our existing gun laws and to better enforce them. I think this is wiser and offers a better opportunity for progress.
If we are to begin this conversation, there are a couple of things I think we need to keep in mind.
First, violence didn't start with the invention of gunpowder. It would not go away with the cessation of it's use. We have guns for a reason and any conversation about curtailing their implementation needs to keep include that fact as part of it's context.
Second, here is nothing particularly special about the 2nd Amendment. If we can cast it aside or ignore it, we can use the same standard to ignore any of the others. We've already debated the efficacy of safety concerns vs. the 5th and 8th Amendments when it comes to prisoners. We've discussed the matter of safety vs. the 1st Amendment. For the most part Americans have come down on the side of protecting their freedoms over compromising them for the perception of extra security.
A free people should have the option to arm themselves and to not have to rely upon the state solely for their protection. I don't think people should have to own guns if they choose not to. I think that guns should handled with respect, care and the proper sense of awareness. I do not think this will ever be an outdated concept.
After all, I'm sure some people think the 3rd Amendment is outdated. No soldiers come to anyone's door asking for food and lodging these days, after all.
Which means they could be right. Either that... or it's working.