Tuesday, January 22, 2013 • 1:33 PM Comments (15)

A Really Good Gun Argument

posted by James Heflin

In the back-and-forth I've seen here, in other comment sections, and on Facebook, I've seen very few comments from the pro-gun side of the equation as well-stated and well-grounded as the one I'm pasting below. For all the decrying of emotion as a driver, most all the commentary I've read--from both sides--is charged with plenty of the stuff.

Not so Phil Carlson, someone I don't know but recently have "talked" with on Facebook. Phil kindly granted his permission to post his words here. I disagree with Phil in many ways, of course, but his is the first conversation about this that has primarily been conversation, and useful to boot, rather than heated retreat to usual-suspect arguments. So here you go--a solid, well-tempered version of the other side of this argument:

The fixation on magazine capacity and “military style” firearms is distressing to me primarily because they are not really solutions to any of the stated problems; the data already show that “military style” rifles are used in less than 2 percent of gun crimes, and magazine capacity does not play a significant part in the outcome of a mass shooting because the time taken to reload with a detachable magazine of any capacity is quite brief. There is a good deal of misrepresented information out there with regard to high cap magazines used in high profile shootings and it is very difficult to find reliable information regarding exactly what was used.

The descriptions “military style,” and “assault rifle” conjure up all kinds of images associated with exclusive functions of the state, but there is no real difference in function or capability from modern hunting rifles; one shot per trigger pull, easily reloaded, different ergonomics. The ammunition is not notably different or more powerful; in fact many popular hunting rounds are far more powerful than that used in an AR15 or AK47. As an aside, almost every rifle out there was “military style” at some point in the last 150 years.

That they are easily converted to full auto is a myth; the required parts are heavily regulated and you have to know what you are doing to make it work, not that it’s hard to learn. However, manufacturing or possessing a fully automatic firearm or the unique parts without the requisite license carries a minimum of ten years in federal prison.

So far as “need” goes… One can engage in a thousand “what if” scenarios from home invasion to zombie apocalypse and miss the point. Need is not a consideration with regard to a constitutionally guaranteed right. Why does one need to say terrible things about soldiers or police? They who have risked their lives providing freedom and security, should we ban unflattering speech against them? Given the suicide rates in both professions, maybe we’ll save lives.

Real solutions to gun violence reach far beyond regulating guns. It goes to the causes of violent crime and how it can be prevented. In my opinion, education is among the most important factors. Perhaps the reason that gun permit holders account for a miniscule fraction of violent crime is because they have been educated in the principles of firearms safety and responsible gun ownership.

More of the same could really get us somewhere in this debate. So thanks, Phil.

The crucial point above, to my thinking, is the assertion that owning most any gun is constitutionally guaranteed. There are, all the same, certain kinds of guns one cannot currently own. Perhaps it is Phil's or others' belief that those should be fair game as well (I'm not sure, so I'll leave it at that).

I agree that the right to bear arms exists, though I think the "well-regulated militia" bit is being ignored. I disagree strongly with the idea that owning a gun stands any chance of guarding against tyranny (outside of that imposed by, say, a rather small invading army from Freedonia). I think the lines ought to be drawn more restrictively than they are now, an assertion which does no more damage to the right than do the current restrictions on automatic weapons.

I would personally rather see a debate come down to an essential point like that than derail into the easy kinds of arguments that lead to disengagement and alienation of the two sides. Here's hoping for more.


The problem with the tyranny argument is clear. Tyranny is no longer something that suddenly comes to attack you at your house with a gun. The armed forces of the United States are not going to turn on you; they don't now, and aren't ever likely to enforce the wiles of a tyrannical president by rounding up citizens. They are our fellow citizens, not robots.

Tyranny arrives via the slow, political suspension of rights, as in the suspension of habeas corpus (Bush and Obama), the claim that you can detain Americans indefinitely without charge (Bush and Obama), and the claim that you can assassinate American citizens if you've unilaterally declared them terrorists (Obama).

It's convenient to believe you can hole up with your Glock and "defend your rights," but if it was an effective strategy, we wouldn't be where we are now. It was primarily the very same folks now crowing about protecting us all from tyranny who were cheerleading as Bush obliterated their rights, made us a nation that tortures, began the above destruction of due process, and spied on Americans--i.e., defining hallmarks of tyranny. How did that "protection" work out then?

It's through such destruction that we could very easily find ourselves a nation bereft of the rest of our constitutional rights, but with the Second Amendment perfectly intact, doing its new job of falsely equating the specific right to own a gun with the general idea of "freedom."

Comments (15)
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"I disagree strongly with the idea that owning a gun stands any chance of guarding against tyranny"

You really need to get past this mental roadblock because it actually doesn't matter if you think it stands a chance - not thinking so has no bearing on the argument.

That being said, ever see the news where a guy is holed up in his house with a gun and the police want to arrest him? Do you see what kind of time, manpower, and commotion that causes for 1 person in 1 house? Multiply that by about 200 million who would be at times semi-organized and you'll get an idea of the problem our gov't/military would have on its hands if our liberty reached such a critical point where people had to reject and resist our gov't. So when you say guns offer no level of defense of tyranny you are wrong.

Posted by k on 1.23.13 at 6:32
Posted by Phil Carlson on 1.23.13 at 9:31

The "tyranny argument" as you put it is as valid now as it was when the Bill of Rights was ratified. It is not a question of probability, it's a principle. The militia that 2A refers to is a force raised from the population at large, not a standing or consistently organized force, it may be called up by the for the State or for the Federal Government, or it may be raised for other need. The framers, Hamilton in particular, viewed a standing army as one of the greatest threats to liberty and the militia clause is the balance against such a standing army.

The argument that the National Guard of the various states constitutes that militia is inaccurate. The National Guard is formed under title 32 of the US Code. It is a federally funded organization ultimately answerable to the POTUS and Chief of Staff of the Army.

Two examples of citizens arming and organizing to defend themselves and their rights are:

Athens, TN, 1946 http://www.lawfulpath.com/ref/tnrevolt.shtml

Los Angeles, CA 1992 http://www.ammoland.com/2012/05/1992-l-a-riots-or-how-californians-learned-then-forgot-to-embrace-the-gun/#axzz2IoopdBf0

The second example was a result of the absence of authority, not abuse of it so it's not tyranny but it serves as an example of citizens exercising their 2A rights in crisis.

Posted by Phil Carlson on 1.23.13 at 10:17

JH's view is the epitamy of taking our freedom for granted. History is rich with democratic gov'ts going tyranical yet he firmly believes it not possible that it could occur here.

Posted by k on 1.23.13 at 10:43
That depends entirely upon what capabilities those restrictions allow the citizen to have.
Posted by Phil Carlson on 1.23.13 at 10:45

JH - Again, given your last post, do you suggest that we should be taking up arms against our gov't now? You feel it's appropriate now? (If not, your point is still invalid.)

Posted by k on 1.23.13 at 11:55

When push comes to shove, a government will ultimately push with force. 2A exists to see that the citizens have the ability to push back with comparable force.

Posted by Phil Carlson on 1.23.13 at 13:55

"I don't buy that the members of the armed forces would even stand for such a thing."

I know! U.S. soldiers firing on citizens engaging in protest against the government? Unheard of!


Posted by Don't know much about history on 1.23.13 at 17:14

Let me clarify; when the government begins to abuse it's authority, the means with which it will overcome resistance is by civil policing. It is unlikely that the military would be used, federal law enforcement agencies are much more likely.

As far as the awesome power of the US Military goes: Having been that guy using all our gadgets to fight an insurgency in a place where electricity is a luxury and mud brick is still a staple building component, I can tell you that for all of our wonderful technology we got taken to school by folks with some very basic equipment. So the idea that civilians are outgunned anyway thus it doesn't matter what they have doesn't fly.

With regard to the level of arms a civilian should be able to keep; 2A implies a level of parity between civilians and government authority and I think that does not exclude modern police. In my opinion, a reasonable threshold for privately owned firearms is what you would find in a typical police cruiser.

The active components of US Military has been used in US cities. Los Angeles and New Orleans come to mind. I can envision a number of scenarios that would deploy US forces in the US that would not be met with resistance from the military.

Posted by Phil Carlson on 1.23.13 at 19:43

2A was written to protect the people from abuse of force. 1A and the electoral process exist to allow for the removal of politicians who abuse their authority and encroach on liberty. Now is a good time to plug congressional term limits, get rid of the lifers and intrenched corruption.

Sigh the petition!


Posted by Phil Carlson on 1.24.13 at 5:54

Signed the petition.

One last time, JH - as argued here, it's totally conceivable that millions of armed citizens could put up a fight against tyranny if it came to that point. No matter how many times you say otherwise, it doesn't make it true or logical. I almost feel like your whole position in this debate hinges on that false point because it makes no sense that you are still clinging to it.

Posted by k on 1.24.13 at 6:51

Again you are making a false argument. It's not not an either or proposition. We should explore those methods now but also preserve our 2nd amendment rights for something much more dire down the road.

Posted by k on 1.24.13 at 9:36

"Why not figure out how to defend against tyranny, the supposed reason we need particular weapons, in a way that will work right now?"

Defense aganinst tyranny is not the only reason for 2A, it is one among many, some forseeable, others not so much. The supreme court held that 2A assures the right to self defense, but not defense against what, just as the 2A itself affords the people the ability to from a militia but doesn't specify why, when, or for whom.

By sticking to "defense against tyranny" as the principle reason and basis for your argument, you turn the conversation into a discussion of the relative threat from our own government, which as you point out, is not likely to use force to oppress us anytime soon. However, history is full of things that changed. It's a tangent that moves us off the point.

Posted by Phil Carlson on 1.24.13 at 12:12

The problem with the current argument from gun "control" advocates is it seems to boil down to this goal: Enact laws so that if a madman is alone in a room with a bunch of unarmed people, he can do as little damage as possible.

The current laws being discussed won't stop mass shootings. So after each one, we'll try to pass more laws each time. In the end the problem will not be solved and as a biproduct we'll eliminate any meaningful 2nd amendment rights.

I echo this solid point by Phil:

"With regard to the level of arms a civilian should be able to keep; 2A implies a level of parity between civilians and government authority and I think that does not exclude modern police. In my opinion, a reasonable threshold for privately owned firearms is what you would find in a typical police cruiser."

Most schools have zero armed protection. The president has many well trained and armed secret service. The real solution is found somewhere in between. The idea that armed security makes you less safe is completely illogical. The idea that disarming citizens makes them safer during mass shootings is illogical. And the entire concept of gun-free zones needs to be discussed because it's foolish. They are mass shooting zones. Ask yourself a simple question... if you were so inclined to go on mass murder spree with a goal to kill as many soals as possible, would you choose a gun free zone or an NRA convention?

Posted by k on 1.24.13 at 12:41


Posted by k on 1.24.13 at 12:43



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