The suggestion was made that we ought to find a way to keep guns out of the hands of those who are possibly unstable, and so reduce the chance of someone going on a shooting spree. In response we offered a series on Gun Control which explored the ramifications and possibilities involved. That series began in 2012 and ran through early 2013; then a year later, almost to the day, the issue was revisited, and two more articles were published on the subject. We present those here.
The BBC World News was reporting on the conflict in Syria. Citizens in that country are watching the skies, against the possibility that their own government might bomb their towns.
Syria is half a world away, and it is easy to tell ourselves that it could not happen here. Yet the question that should be asked is what makes it possible in Syria but not in these United States. It happens that there is a plausible explanation also in the news recently. The Federal Bureau of Land Management (BLM) was confiscating the cattle of the Bundy ranch in Nevada, over a dispute concerning land on which the Bundy cattle have grazed for a century. Armed federal officers moved to enforce the government's claim--and they were met by armed citizens, the Bundys themselves and supporters from near and far forming an impromptu militia in defense of the rights of the ranchers.
Whether the government or the ranchers were in the right in this case is not the point. We have in Nevada a situation in which the government sent armed enforcers to impose its claim, and citizens who believed that claim was invalid were able to answer threat of force with threat of force, and the government withdrew. We are not like Syria for a number of reasons, but one of them is that our citizens are able to bring force to bear against our own government if it seems necessary.
This, not incidentally, was the main motivation for the Second Amendment: that the people of these United States would be able to defend themselves, not merely against criminals, not solely against alien invasion, but also against their own government gone rogue. The founders had been through gun control under the British, who were determined to deprive the colonists of any means of opposing the force of the occupying army. Quite a bit of the Bill of Rights is reactionary against the treatment by the government of its citizens at that time, and the determination that citizens would be able to defend against government was a key element in that.
So whatever you think of the Bundys and their supporters, at least recognize that their ability to defend themselves against the incursions of federal agents is one of the reasons America is not like Syria.
Emotional reaction to tragedy and trouble leads to irrationally bad law. We saw this a century ago with Prohibition. Certainly alcohol was destroying lives and something needed to be done; making alcohol criminal meant only criminals had alcohol, and the many who wanted it had to fund criminal activities to obtain it. Now we are seeing equally ridiculous results from well-intentioned gun regulations. There are two examples in recent news.
Anti-gun advocates consider it a significant point the sheer volume of guns, ammunition, and powder Lintner was keeping in his home. However, there has been no evidence, no suggestion, that any of it was obtained or stored illegally. The police charged Mr. Lintner on the rather dubious claim that his storage of such materials in safe containers in that quanitity constituted a hazard to the neighborhood; it remains to be seen whether this will even go to trial. (His wife was charged with aggravated assault.)
It also is unclear who is going to pay for the damages incurred by breaking all those secure cases, or how the owner is to recover his confiscated property. It reads very much as if the attack by Eileen Lintner on her husband gave anti-gun rights advocates a reason to deprive a legitimate citizen of his rights and his property.
McLaw also happens to be an eighth grade language arts teacher at a middle school in Maryland, nominated for recognition as one of the best teachers following his first year of employment this past year. Just before school resumed this fall, he was suspended from his position and taken into custody, put through a psychological evaluation, had his home searched along with the school looking for bombs and weapons; none were found. However, he remains suspended, his present whereabouts is unknown, and there has been no word from him concerning these matters. All of this apparently arose because he wrote two published novels about a school massacre in a future world.
It has since been suggested that there were other reasons why McLaw was being investigated, related to a letter he wrote to county officials, and that there were concerns about his mental health and he is receiving treatment. It has been asserted that the books were never an issue in the matter--but for at least a week the only information released concerning McLaw was that he was the author of books about a school massacre.
Neither of these matters have been resolved as of this publication; both give the appearance of overreaction in an age of sensitization to guns. Clearly we do not mean that we will investigate anyone who writes about school massacres--that would include everyone from the New York Times to the Huffington Post to yours truly, simply because they occur and we report and comment on them. Certainly we do not want to permit persons to have guns who have demonstrated irrational violence--but does that mean that if a police officer is attacked by his next door neighbor every apartment in the building, including his, must be swept for weapons? Common sense has to become a factor at some point; blind adherence to reactionary rules will only worsen the situation.