Sunday, May 12, 2013

It's NOT the Guns, it's the Rights

New Jersey Senate President Stephen Sweeney (D) announced "a package of bills that will serve as a national model for gun safety." He outlined the bill in an op-ed, Gun Control that Works for New Jersey and is a National Model.

The bill would require all gun information such as gun permits and firearms IDs to be encoded into a drivers license, and allow instant name verification, criminal and mental background checks, proof of proper training in the ownership and use of firearms, etc., with a swipe of the license.

What's interesting is that Sweeney claims to be for gun rights for law-abiding citizens. He has said that he is a gun owner, and so are many members of his ironworkers union. He has angered anti-gun activists by adamantly refusing to reduce the magazine limit from the existing 15 to 10. Said Sweeney:

The centerpiece of our legislation, which I am proud to sponsor, is a bill to completely overhaul the process for purchasing firearms so that it is more modern, requires instant background checks on all purchases and stops those who should not have weapons from getting them.
This bill packs a lot of punch, and there may be a lot of bad stuff in the bill that could be a backdoor means for anti-gun zealots to restrict gun ownership by means of unreasonably difficult requirements. However, I have said that rules governing gun ownership are proper functions of government, and the stream-lined process could theoretically make it much easier to obtain a gun, thanks to the instant verification process.

But, in reading Sweeney's article, something struck me: The piece is full of terms like "gun safety," "gun violence," and "gun control." It's all about the guns. So, I submitted the following letter-to-the-editor, which was published in edited form:

As the people's designated agent of self-defense, properly holding a legal monopoly on the use of physical force, the government has a role in overseeing the use of instruments of deadly force. Therefore, the government may properly make objective rules regarding gun ownership, much as it has rules regarding who may obtain a driver’s license.

But, I have my doubts that responsible, rights-respecting gun legislation can be crafted because the anti-gun zealots have managed to subvert the whole debate with invalid terminology like "gun control" and "gun violence." Guns can't commit violence. People commit violence, and the cause isn't the gun. The cause is perverted values and motives. The gun is just a means.

As long as the focus is on gun control or gun violence, the impetus will be toward increasing restrictions on gun ownership for law-abiding, morally upstanding citizens. The proper purpose of gun legislation should be to protect the rights of upstanding citizens to own guns for self-defense or recreational purposes; rights that are implicit in the inalienable rights to life and the pursuit of happiness.

It must be stressed that the "gun control" issue is fundamentally one of individual rights; specifically, the right to life and the right to pursue happiness. The right to life implies the right to possess and use adequate means to defend oneself when law enforcement isn't there to protect one (owning guns for self defense). And the right to pursue happiness implies the right to own guns to secure a feeling of personal security and for recreational purposes.

Related Reading:

Gun Control Should Focus on Principles, not Guns

Banning Guns Punishes the Innocent and Violates Rights

With Gun Control, Cost Benefit Analysis is Amoral by Harry Binswanger

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