COLUMN: Second Amendment bounds overstepped at gun shows
James Holmes obviously has deep psychological issues.
Witnesses reported when he went on his shooting spree inside of a movie theatre in Aurora, Colo., he seemed calm and collected. Holmes opened fire on the crowd with an assault rifle, a shotgun, a pistol and smoke grenades while wearing body armor and a gas mask.
We could — and certainly will —speculate endlessly about his motives, his upbringing and every detail of his actions before and after the shooting.
While all of that will make for exiting news I’m sure, I’m much more interested in talking about why anybody needs to be able to legally purchase assault rifles and body armor, if not for killing crowds of people.
In spring of 2012, I went with a friend to a gun show at the Oklahoma City fairgrounds. I brought with me a Springfield .45 model 1911 that I purchased when I was in the military years earlier. I hoped to sell the pistol, as I never really shot it anyway and at the time I was out of work. We bought our tickets, had my weapon checked and walked into a large converted barn with hundreds of tables set up in a maze.
It all happened so fast. I was showing a gentleman my pistol, when he offered me $600 for it. That was more than I had hoped for, so I agreed. He put the pistol in the box, handed me six $100 bills and said “Good doin’ business with you.”
I stood there perplexed. Didn’t he need to fill out a bill of sale? Or register this transaction in some way? When I bought the weapon I had to wait three days for an FBI background check; suddenly I’m selling it in turn without so much as an exchange of names? These questions were answered by suspicious glances. The pistol was placed under the table and I walked away, a little stunned.
As I walked around with $600 in my pocket, looking at pistols and shotguns and assault rifles and body armor and the people who sell them, I couldn’t help but wonder how anyone could complain about gun control. My buddy bought a small .38 revolver much in the way I had sold my .45 — cash for pistol, end of story.
I know I felt about as unsafe as possible in the parking lot afterward. Who knows who is walking out of this place with what? For all I know, any one of the people who carried weapons out of that gun show would be the next James Holmes.
Usually this is where I get cut off by a Second Amendment proponent. As I understand it, the purpose of the Second Amendment was to allow civilians to own firearms for the purpose of creating a militia. This made sense at the time, as military technology was not very advanced. Musket-on-musket warfare with a few cannons thrown in on either side is relatively evenly matched and it is logical to assure that a musket-clad militia could be created in a short amount of time.
Today’s rhetoric claims that gun ownership is essential to preserve liberty against a government takeover of some kind. I find it ironic that people who stockpile weapons illegally in case of the government coming after them are usually taken down by a few special agents.
Let me assure you, having personally taken part in a counter-insurgency, all the rifles and pistols and grenades in the world won’t help you if the government decides it wants to come and get you for any reason. The technological disparity is too great to contend with today’s military hardware. Unless you find a gun show selling Apache attack helicopters and satellite guided cruise missiles, you are almost comically out-gunnned.
Next will be the hunters crying foul. I can almost hear Ted Nugent now, “If I can’t shoot a buffalo with a fully automatic assault rifle, then my liberty has been infringed upon.”Assault rifles and pistols are not made to kill deer, they are made to kill human beings. No animals I am aware of need to be shot 30 times before they die, and I don’t know of any game animal that can legally be killed in increments of 30.
So why do you need a 30-round magazine to go hunting? Either you are cruel, childish, sadistic little man like Nugent, or you aren’t really buying those weapons to use on game animals.
Finally, the home defense argument is the one I find the most silly when discussing gun control. “I need an AR-15 and a 9mm in case someone breaks into my house.”
A 12-gauge shotgun with birdshot is plenty of home protection firepower and unlike rifle and pistol rounds, the birdshot won’t go through the siding and kill your neighbors. In inexperienced hands, a shotgun is easier to use, requires almost no aim, and at close range (inside a house) is every bit as effective at ending human life as any other weapon.
My proposal here is that civilians be limited to bolt action hunting rifles and shotguns without special permit. My reason? In 2008, 39 people were murdered by a firearm in the United Kingdom, including England, Wales and Scotland.
During the same year, 9,146 people were murdered by a firearm in the United States. In the U.K., all weapons require permits and handguns and automatic rifle permits are rarely given. The government hasn’t taken to the streets in a military dictatorship, homes and families are still safe and game animals still get shot.
The other option, of course, is for everyone to carry a firearm every time they leave the house. What a wonderful society that sounds like.
Trent Cason is a literature and cultural studies senior.