Saturday, September 22, 2007

Second Amendment whackos

Posted By on Sat, Sep 22, 2007 at 4:15 PM

Among the extremist groups that demand political fealty in this country--anti-abortionists, anti-gay marriage advocates, radical environmentalists--none makes me grind my teeth more than Second Amendment whackos. Those other three groups at least root their positions in some sort of broader ethos. More, that ethos is generally religious, and religion isn't exactly rational. So it’s not really a surprise when anti-abortionists fail to consider the real-world consequences of their positions.   

Second Amendment whackos, on the other hand, have no creed to back them up--they just want weapons, period. Although they claim that the Constitution gives an individual the absolute right to possess weapons, only one court—the D.C. Circuit appeals court, in a recent ruling—has found this to be the case. (Which just makes them more absurd—they take a rational document and use it for extremist purposes.) Look at the Second Amendment. If you can find a clear statement of an individual’s absolute right to carry a gun in that tangle of eighteenth-century language, you’re smarter than I am.

None of this is to say that there should be a total ban on weapons. They have their place, assuming they’re properly regulated. But what Second Amendment whackos refuse to acknowledge is that if you put armed people in a densely packed area, someone is guaranteed to get shot. People kill people—fine. But guns make it a hell of a lot easier for them to do it. Anyone who suggests otherwise is suffering from a poverty of experience.  

Which is why it was disheartening to see Rudy Giuliani—along with other Republicans—pander to the NRA yesterday. This is a man who ran the largest city in America and claims responsibility for cutting its crime rate. He knows what happens when you allow assault weapons in urban areas. But clear thought and the lessons of experience be damned—he’s got to get the base on board. Perhaps the most egregious part of the speech was his invocation of 9-11 and his suggestion that “maybe it highlights the necessity for [Second Amendment rights] more.” Yeah, so next time you see a terrorist walking around on the street, just shoot him.  

Mike Huckabee put in an appearance and told the crowd he’s a long-time hunter and he once won and antelope-hunting contest. These sorts of comments are essential for acceptance by the NRA—that’s why Mitt Romney had to insist that he’d always been a varmint hunter—but they’re also an utterly ridiculous way to establish bona fides with an extremist group. Talking about hunting may get a candidate the gun lobby’s support, but it also evades the problems the NRA poses for politicians who actually have to deal with the consequences of letting everyone have a firearm. It may be reasonable to use firearms to hunt deer, but that doesn’t make logical to allow handguns on the streets of L.A.

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