Here We Go Again

The 2nd Amendment to the Constitution is an outdated relic that gun enthusiasts use as a cudgel against any meaningful gun control legislation. Many liberals, this one included, have been loathe to speak out too forcefully against it, for a variety of reasons. The way that I soothed my own conscience about the 2nd Amendment was to hold with the idea that weakening the 2nd could leave the other amendments vulnerable. That’s still a concern, but it’s outweighed by my desire, a common sense one, to live in a society that is no longer armed to the teeth — that no longer fetishizes firearms.

I’ve written about this before, because what American pundit or blogger hasn’t in this stupid age of mass shootings in which we live? Any effort by Congress to eschew its duty to regulate firearms, in the name of public safety and by the actual letter of the 2nd Amendment, is unconscionable. But, if 20 dead kids in Connecticut weren’t enough to cut through the nonsense of the gun lobby and the paranoid aspects of the right wing, then this latest tragedy in Las Vegas won’t be enough, either. But, let’s refine my ideas a bit further.

First off, the 2nd Amendment is out of date, coming from a time when the most deadly of firearms could be fired, at most, three times a minute. The amendment is no longer relevant to the times in which we live. Short of repealing or altering it through congressional action or a convention, it’s past time to further regulate the types of firearms Americans are allowed to own.

Rate of fire is the most important determinant on the lethality of mass shootings. No background check is going to stop a mass shooting from occurring, but slowing down the rate of fire will save lives, period. To that end, I believe that the sale, manufacture, and ownership of all semiautomatic firearms should be made illegal. Weapons with a high rate of fire are designed for use against humans. Should one wish to own a rifle for hunting or sport, a bolt-action rifle with a fixed magazine that has to be loaded one round at a time, with a capacity of no more than five rounds, is enough. Even lever action rifles are capable of firing too quickly. No alterations to this basic function should be allowed, and they should be engineered against homemade solutions.

Similar rules should be applied to shotguns, restricting their sale, manufacture, and ownership to pump action and breech loading varieties only. As for handguns, single action revolvers only, with a six-round maximum capacity, and fixed cylinders to prevent the use of quick loaders.

Should laws like these be enacted, an accompanying voluntary buyback program is not enough. Merely owning the outlawed weapons cannot be allowed. These weapons should be confiscated and destroyed, their former owners compensated with a payment equal to the fair market value of the confiscated weapon. Should they wish to take their check and buy a pile of deer rifles and six-shooters with the money, then so be it. But no more weapons of war.

All of the characteristics above take firearms back to the 19th century, before the innovations of the bloody 20th, when we learned how to throw so much lead. There is no cause, and no inalienable right, for the people of this country to own weapons of war. The framers never intended their work to be immutable, and would probably recoil at our inability to respond to the changed nature of modern violence.

We are awash in a sea of blood and horror. This isn’t Hollywood. This is real life. This is the society we have consciously made for us. It is a place where imaginary heroes could supposedly stand up to a well-armed mass murderer. These shootings happen on a regular basis, but so far no good guy with a gun has been able to do a damn thing to stop them. Such ideas are a myth, as is the constant need for self-defense. We are regulated to extremis in so many areas, yet not in weapons designed to kill people. That is insane.

But, even if the ideas above were enacted into legislation, which is impossible, as these are admittedly fringe ideas in the United States, any gun control legislation is being undercut as home milling and 3D printing technology continues to expand. It’s now possible to construct a fully functional AR-15 variant rifle, with no serial number and no record of purchase, at home, by buying finished parts separately, completing work on an unfinished receiver, and then assembling. As milling machines specifically designed for finishing receivers, and 3D printers, continue to decrease in cost, it’s going to get harder and harder to cut down on the ridiculous arsenal available to people in this country.