A Modest Proposal

The Newtown school shooting has triggered vehement calls for gun bans and equally vehement declarations of Second Amendment rights.  So instead of shouting and scheming, let’s look at some component parts of the problem.

The Second Amendment is a bona fide part of the Bill of Rights, no less than freedom of religion and due process.  The Supreme Court recently affirmed this, which is why retaliatory blanket gun bans keep being stricken down.

Bans of certain more dangerous types of guns also fail.  A friend who owns a gun shop tells me that when the WonderBluss Assault Rifle that fires 1,000 rounds a minute is banned, the WomderBluss manufacturers make a minor rifling change and, voila!  The ThunderBluss Assault rifle is perfectly legal.  Legislation cannot keep pace with manufacture.

Rights aren’t absolute; you can lose your right to vote by committing a felony, and your right to free speech by committing libel.  Attempts to fairly regulate gun rights are tricky, but sometimes appropriate.  For example, a few years ago the legislature passed a law allowing doctors to inform police when a gun owner with Alzheimer’s began to fail to recognize family members after a man shot his wife here on Cape, thinking she was an intruder. So rights aren’t absolute, but are subject to some reasonable regulation.

Maybe we have kept approaching this from the wrong direction – from prohibition rather than affirmation.

What if – we didn’t create a list of guns and weapons which are prohibited, but a list of guns and weapons that are allowed?  Six models of pistols, three models of hand guns, eight types of rifles, etc.   That would eliminate the WonderBluss/ThunderBluss shuffle.  It would affirm the right of citizens to own guns for protections and recreation, while protecting them from the carnage of automatic weapons fire.  The right to bear arms isn’t an absolute right to bear every kind of weapon there is.

We, as a nation, need to turn away from absolutisms and try to find workable solutions to protect our children and communities while preserving our rights.

About Peter Porcupine

  • It would affirm the right of citizens to own guns for protections and recreation, while protecting them from the carnage of automatic weapons fire.

    If you can find me a crime committed with an automatic weapon, it will be the first I’ve heard of.  These nut jobs are using common semi-automatic firearms, which aren’t going anywhere.

    Limiting magazine capacity is the main objective of gun control these days.  The Assault Weapons Ban accomplishes this, plus limiting the number of scary-looking features a firearm is allowed to have.

    In addition to an Assault Weapons Ban, Massachusetts also has an Approved Firearms Roaster for handguns — I believe the state screens handguns for consumer safety only.  The result: Sig Sauer handguns can be sold in MA; Glocks cannot.  They’re both equally deadly in the wrong hands.

    A significant loophole in all this is that none of these laws apply to guns or magazines manufactured before the laws went into effect.  So people will buy a new AR-15 (with MA-legal 10 round magazines) and then just pick up surplus 30-round magazines manufactured before 1994… all completely legal.  

  • gary

    First, note that CT has background check, makes ‘assault weapons’ illegal, has a gun free zone around and in the school, and yet the shooter, likely with no license and therefore illegally possessed of an assault weapon went illegally onto school grounds and shot people.

    Second, it was not an automatic weapon.  There simply are very few of those in the hands of the public.

    But to discuss your suggestion, suppose we adopt on a Federal or State level, an ‘affirmation’ statute that says something like, only these guns allowed:  5 shot max, no pistol grip nor flash suppressor, semi-automatic…

    Well at that point, you have the Federal Assault weapons ban, which is also pretty much the current law in Massachusetts.  Further, Mass has a list of handguns that are allowed.

    And, note that even with that law in place here in Mass, I can legally possess and own within about 30 minutes a semi-automatic AK-47 with a 31 shot mag.  Then, I can pick up any number of additional magazines for about $30 per.  In Massachusetts, legally.

    The reason I can possess that AK-47 is i) because there are a large number of those weapons already in circulation and they may be bought and sold, and ii) the weapon was grandfathered in pre-ban so even new Romanian AKs may be imported to Mass and sold.

    So with your proposed law in place for future gun production, what to do with all the existing guns like that in private hands: Federal and state laws telling all of us to turn them in?

    These laws I’m imagining simply won’t become law.  The NRA isn’t some monster that opposes gun laws.  The NRA is us!  I don’t want to turn in my legally owned guns.

    But imagine this: imagine the horrible delemna facing the teacher, in a classroom with a shooter advancing.  His/her only choice is to gather the kids into a corner?  BTW, I can’t imagine why gather in a corner is a real solution-seems like a large bunch of people is a better, not worse, target.  I’m sure the notion of allowing a teacher the right to concealed carry wouldn’t be popular, but wow…might that not be an option on the table.

  • No, I will not negotiate & surrender my right to keep & bear arms.

    The list of guns to which you refer ARE the list of guns that are allowed, at least handguns in Massachusetts.

    The list of so-called “assault weapons” that are permissible is a joke as the Federal law was largely based on merely cosmetic features.  A gun that “looks” scary or versus it’s actual functioning and the bullet it fired.

    Firearms, be it the WonderBluss or the ones I own, don’t make me or others a killer any more than my fork & spoon make me fat.  No, it is the action of someone using those items – mere tools – that causes the killing or the weight gain.  As the saying goes, my guns have killed less people than Ted Kennedy’s car & in that instance it wasn’t the car that killed anyone, it wasn’t even the likely alcohol, it was our former Senator!

    With all due respect my friend, even if I cede the mental capability issue your example of committing a felony or engaging in libel just don’t work. Your attempt to show that rights aren’t absolute is found wanting.  Both of your examples are of speech that is illegal after the words are uttered and the legal remedies follow the actions.  Your suggestion & that of anti-Second Amendment activists is to penalize the exercise of my rights peremptorily, before a anyone even attempts to exercise the right.  

    I’ll end on another old saying…if all guns are outlawed then only outlaws will have guns.  The Prohibition & the War on Drugs clearly is evidence that those who want illegal things will get them yet all you will do is have government victimize law-abiding citizens, not subjects, and turn them into victims for criminals.  Do you really think that criminals follow gun control laws?  No, I know they don’t.  However, law-abiding citizens do follow the law and will have their rights crushed by such suggestions.  Perhaps if the news ran stories of how often firearms protect & define lives – rather than only the great tragedies like yesterday – our anti-gun mentality wouldn’t be so indoctrinated into our collective consciousness.  

    To the bureaucrat coming up with lists of guns that they, in their infinite tyranny, believe I should be permitted to own – pry it from my cold, dead hands!  Opportunists are already exploiting this tragedy for their oppressive anti-Second Amendment schemes & machinations.  

  • The distinction between fully automatic and semi-automatic is a fine one in the eyes of the public at large.  Both allow a more or less continuous stream of fire, which is what enables quick multiple killings.  Likewise, the guns already in circulation or grandfathered is a technical issue to most.

    Very small children killed en masse is far more widely understandable.

    Gun ‘nuts’ as they are often called do themselves harm by using the cold, dead hands analogy – it reinforces the impression that they are not concerned with the safety of society at large, but only their own personal satisfactions in owning weaponry. It is braggodocio, bombastic and unthinking. It allows their arguments to be more easily dismissed as those of ‘wing nuts’.

    The argument that the person was underage, breaking the law, etc. is a cheap debating point.  Since he was engaged in an already illegal act, of course he wasn’t conforming to the niceties of prohibitive statutes.  It’s a branch of the argument that if guns are illegal, only criminals will have guns. Background checks are most useful in determining ownership, not determining who might in years to come decide to commit a crime.  But making these arguments and refusing to acknowledge that compromise and some management of guns is needed to protect the general public only advances the likelihood of that outcome.

    IF there were an affirmative statute, it would eliminate the grandfathered weapons and magazine capacities.  It would make it more difficult for criminals and mad men to buy or steal weapons with quick, multiple shot capacities by taking them out of the marketplace.  Most mass gun violence is committed with a stolen legal weapon.

    Affirm the right of gun owners to have weapons.  Just not the nuclear ones.

  • edfactor

    Mr. Porcupine –

    I appreciate your thoughtful post. If only the country were full of people like you and Brock. We would not need such legislation.

    There is a political tsunami coming. It has been gathering strength over the years with all of the gun deaths in America – vastly more than any other nation like us. The mass shootings – once rare, now common – have made it strong enough to wipe out the power of the NRA, which only represents 5% of gun owners. This shooting was the final boost of energy that will cause this wave to crash against the House Republicans.

    We have now left the post-Regan shooting status quo. Decisions will be made. Laws will be passed. Good citizens like Brock will not be consulted.

    We are in a new time now. The old arguments won’t work anymore. The GOP will not be able to quietly cater to gun nuts who fantasize about kneeling in their kitchens, firing at government agents who want to take them away without cause.

    It’s over, Mr. Porcupine. The future of gun laws will be decided by the majority of the nation who love children more than guns.

    And I, a big believer in the second amendment, someone who knows that the men who wrote the constitution brought guns to the gathering that approved it, am with them and not the NRA, or you, or Brock on this.

    I don’t want my kids to be gunned down one day. To hell with defense against tyranny. If the government sends Seal Team Six to my house, I don’t believe a shotgun in my closet is going to make a damned bit of difference.

    I am going to be part of the solution. I don’t care if RMG’ers don’t get it. I do.

  • Curious how we do this without creating a situation where each manufacturer has a monopoly on their particular segment of the gun market.

    Also curious what happens when foreign weapons surpass ours, due to the lack of innovation that would accompany this legislation.

  • edfactor

    I have always been a firm believer that it is the person, not the gun.

    But maybe Republicans have always whitewashed how bad the gun situation is. I just didn’t know how bad it was here until I saw the story in today’s post about how many guns we have:


    Just look at this chart alone:

    So, in other countries, a guy can’t drive to the house of some middle-aged female school teacher and find a cache of weapons. They are a lot, lot, lot, harder to find.

    Again, when the public is shown these charts, when things like Australia’s case study is shown (in Kristof’s devastating article here: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/12… ) and when these grieving mothers sit and cry at a Senate hearing on guns, all of the good and bad arguments of conservatives will be washed away.

  • 1. Everyone reading this post should donate as much as he or she can give to the relief efforts established to help the families affected by this tragedy.

    2. Treasure every moment you have with the loved ones in your life.

    3. Let’s give the politics a rest for a few days.  

  • There is a reason that Obama never pushed any gun control laws, even when the Dems had super-majorities in the House and Senate. Its a political loser.

    Bring it up, and it will be another potent weapon for the GOP in 2014. In the Senate, the Dems are on the defensive in AK, AR, LA, MT, WV, SD, and NC in 2014.

  • …strict observance of the written law is doubtless one of the high duties of a good citizen, but it is not the highest. The laws of necessity, of self-preservation, of saving our country when in danger, are of higher obligation. To lose our country by a scrupulous adherence to the written law, would be to lose the law itself, with life, liberty, property and all those who are enjoying them with us; thus absurdly sacrificing the ends to the means”

    Thomas Jefferson

  • MerrimackMan

    Where is the discussion on mental illness? Oh that’s right, it’s a hell of a lot harder to politically grandstand on something few, even experts, understand. There is no easy solution to this problem, and while Brock is somewhat wrong to suggest we are at a moral low point in this country (he’s also somewhat correct), there’s the potential that a great deal of these shooting occurrences are happening because of huge, slow moving societal frameworks, which are nearly impossible for a government to change over night.

    At the end of the day, all the assault weapons bans, school no gun zones, gun registries, gun safety features didn’t stop this boy from committing these heinous acts. Making more gun laws won’t stop these deranged and committed individuals from perpetrating their crimes, or treat the underlying symptoms. We have to work on our society, and build a new psychiatric health system in America, and that’s a hell of a lot harder for politicians and politicos to score points on.  

  • After watching Obama turn a memorial into a policy speech, I am more sickened, and more determined.

    There are words to describe emotional, impulsive governance like mobacracy and lynch mobs. Our whole system was built to avoid that.

    The other side cant win with logic, facts, and level heads; so they wait until the weepy eyed masses are vulnerable and weak to launch their Unconstitutional, statist assault.

    Truly pathetic, as are those who follow the pied pipers lead.

  • V

    …and apparently the NRA can’t either…

    How many of these crimes are committed with legally owned-registered guns…by the legal owner?

    Some interesting stats:


    I’m not the biggest numbers wizard out there but I believe you’ll see that rifles (of all kinds) are used in less than three percent of all homicides. And, since assault rifles are a subset of those…it would have to be something less than 3%…..

    Interestingly…shotguns kill more people than rifles and I don’t hear anyone screaming to ban shotguns….maybe because “shotgun” doesn’t have the emotional appeal of ….dun..dun..dun…”assault rifle”.

    Also…(I believe someone else alluded to this above) the 1994 Democratic Congress passed an assault-rifle ban. Gun enthusiasts watching the debates started buying up assault rifles by the millions. It is probable that the ban put more of them on the street than would have been without it. In addition, the law banned guns according to type/style…pistol grips, flash supression, etc. so manufacturers simply made versions without those things. And, if you look at the FBI crime stats for the ban period…the percentage of murders committed with rifles didn’t change. Finally, when the law sunset after a decade…President Bush and Congress let it die… the percentage of murders committed with rifles didn’t move.

  • Vote3rdpartynow

    I think we are at a point where we have to try something.  What that something is I do not know, and if it requires some limitations I do not know.   But I do know this – if there is a prescribed list of guns that are somehow ‘okay’ because of how they fire.  Then won’t we suddenly find ALL murders being committed by people with those types of guns?  And then won’t Deval Patrick, the newly minted Justice of the Supreme Court, ask to outlaw that specific dangerous gun?  and then won’t they work their way down the list of prescribed guns until we eventually have none…?  

    Its the perfect slippery slope…

  • Vote3rdpartynow

    Named after Deputy Barney Fife –

    Let people carry guns, but only allow them to have one bullet, and they have to keep it in their shirt pocket.  By the time they got it out and into the gun most potential victims would be long gone…

  • msw

    …or we will get our @$$es kicked in the next set of elections as well.   We discuss here how to win back female voters and appeal to more people one day and the next day discuss at length why we should resist all attempts to ban certain weapons even while discusing that those bans are purely symbolic.  We may be right on this but the general perception of the party will be negative in the eyes of the general public.  We are more concerned with “assualt rifles” than protecting little kids – it may not be fair but that will be the message used against us…I’m sure they are already prepping the ads against Scott or whoever runs in the potential special election for Senate – the pro-rape mantra can now be retired in favor of the pro assualt rifle mantra.  There has to be a way to split the difference – we should be willing to make some symbolic concessions if we want to have any chance of winning again.  We can insist on absolutes but I fear that will only end in electoral defeats again and again.  If we really want to win over suburban soccer moms we will need to find a better message than this.

  • The founding fathers wanted a well armed population where able bodied men would be part of militias. The purpose of this was to provide a means of defense against and deterrent to a tyrannical federal government. Although we don’t have that many militias anymore, we at least have a well armed population.  

    As for gun control laws, I would like to point out that there have been mass shootings in countries with much stricter gun control laws.

    Gun control laws are collective punishment against the good guys who vastly outnumber the psychos. These laws discourage gun ownership by the law abiding and do little to stop criminals.

    Gun ownership is empowerment, not just for self defense against violent criminals, but also a deterrent against the statist ambitions that many politicians have. Giving up our constitutional rights is foolish and will only hurt us in the long run.

  • Vote3rdpartynow
  • wavey

    Have no idea how “accurate” these statistics are:


  • gary

    Imagine the founders of US sitting around:

    Tom:  Ok, on to the right to bear arms.

    Ben:  Sure, let everyone have a right to bows and arrows, but can’t let them have muskets, only the government can have those. Way too dangerous otherwise.

    If you accept that i) the 2nd amendment created a right to bear arms, and ii) the arms were intended, in part, as a deterent to government tyranny and iii) the arms possessed by the individual had to be of the same quality as those potentially owned by the government, otherwise there’d be no deterent THEN what’s changed between 1776, (Government and individuals each own flintlocks) and now (Gov and individual each own high capacity weaponry).

    PP, is the change between 1776 and now, this:  the threat posed by individuals owning high capacity rifles is greater than the threat of governmental tyranny.  

    That accurately states your position, PP?

  • parishay899

    keep it up nice work i like it

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