Purely Political, By James Buckley
The following is the complete text of the Second Amendment: “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”
That’s it. Two different substantive sentences melded into one insubstantial and confusing medley of thoughts.
I don’t have a semi-automatic handgun or pistol, much less an AK-47 or AR-15. However, I once owned a .22-caliber rifle. I bought it in Catskill, N.Y., back in the mid-1970s, and there was absolutely no paperwork involved in its purchase. Today, as I understand it, if one buys any kind of firearm whatsoever, one is required to register ownership or at least undergo a background check with the federal government. I’m not quite sure why the purchase of a .22 rifle should be anyone’s concern but mine, but as with virtually any issue, once politicians determine that “something must be done,” then everything is thrown into the pot, regardless of need or desirability.
However, as much as I’d like to protect untarnished and un-infringed the unclear (and frankly, badly written) Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, I’m having a hard time arguing for the rights of anyone other than a member of the armed forces or of a free State’s “well-regulated Militia” to pack an AR-15.
When the Bill of Rights was added to the new Constitution (passed by Congress Sept. 25, 1789, ratified by three-fourths of the states Dec. 15, 1791), the “United” States were made up of 13 independent colonies, all of which had separate legislatures and governmental establishments. All considered themselves free States, separate countries even, so denying a unifying body the ability to disarm any of them was of paramount importance.
It too was obvious at the time that “the right of the people to keep and bear Arms” should not and could not be infringed, certainly not by a central power. The founders had seen that play before. (The battles in Lexington and Concord and “the shot heard ‘round the world” that kicked off America’s war of independence comes to mind.)
What we have as a consequence are 50 states, each with a “well regulated Militia,” i.e. a National Guard, and a fully armed population, some better armed than others.
Here are descriptions of two of the most popular “assault weapons” sold and registered in the U.S.
The AK-47 (Avtomat Kalashnikova, or Automatic Kalashnikov) gets its name from Mikhail Timofeyevich Kalashnikov, the Russian gentleman who finished designing the weapon in 1947. Its worldwide popularity, I am told, is not only because of its low price but also in its simplicity and ease of use. It is generally available with a 30-round capacity magazine.
The AR-15 is an all-American weapon. Its first successful incarnation (the AR-5) was designed in the 1950s by Eugene Stoner, an employee of ArmaLite (hence the AR), a small company based in Hollywood. The gun (AR-5) was designed as a survival device for Air Force pilots who may have been forced to land in hostile territory. The military version of the by-then AR-15 (15th version of the model) became the U.S. Army’s M-16, used in Vietnam.
The AR-15 in civilian dress, beginning in 1989, became the most popular hunting rifle sold in the U.S. It was outlawed with the passage of the Assault Weapon Ban in 1994 but given a new lease on life when the ban was lifted in 2004 in response to evidence that the ban produced no positive effects or reduction in mass shootings.
The AR-15 also has a 30-round magazine (in competition with the AK-47). What makes it so deadly is that (and I’m no gun expert, but have been told the following by two separate gun-savvy individuals) its bullets travel nearly three times faster and impart more than three times the energy of a similar bullet fired from a handgun.
Consequently, they do much more damage to a body and cause both massive bleeding and bone and organ destruction.
With that in mind, and being sincerely earnest about helping to prevent other mass shootings and knowing that these kinds of crimes are often carried out by young men under the age of 21, I find myself in favor of a Gun Safety and Responsibility Act that would require a person to have reached 21 years of age before being allowed to purchase a firearm.
With two caveats:
Any member of a National Guard or U.S. Military unit under the age of 21 would automatically achieve the age of majority by virtue of his or her military status.
Anyone aged 21 or over would have the right to allow the use of said firearm to be used by a person he or she is officially in charge of, i.e., the parent or guardian. Said parent or guardian would then be responsible for whatever use said weapon was put to and if that weapon were used by someone who was then convicted of the felony use of the firearm, the parent or guardian responsible would automatically be sentenced to a minimum of five years in federal prison with no chance of early release or parole.
Passage of GSRA would then allow a father or mother to permit their child or children to use (but not own) a rifle or other firearm for shooting practice or any other legally permitted use (killing rats, or other vermin for example) or even in shooting competitions and the like.
Since virtually every politician in Washington D.C. is a lawyer, the writing of such a law could be crafted in such a way as to ensure that no one, regardless of social status or connections, could avoid serving such a sentence.
Coincident with the act would be the requirement that anyone convicted of a felony or MISDEMEANOR and had used a firearm in the process of such act would also receive a MANDATORY five-year sentence, regardless and/or in spite of any lesser sentence handed down for the original crime. And if that crime were committed by an individual under the age of 21 and the firearm could be traced to a responsible parent or guardian, then that parent or guardian would also be required to serve a sentence of the mandatory five years.
As for the AR-15 and other similar types of high-velocity semi-automatic weapons, I’d lose no more sleep if such devices were banned from civilian gun shops than I do now over the fact that responsible citizens can no longer purchase a working Thompson submachine gun (invented, by the way, by U.S. Army Brigadier General John T. Thompson in 1918).
As for the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, that right would not be infringed upon. A good double-barreled shotgun, for example, and a well-placed pistol in the home is more than sufficient for self-protection. Hunters already have an enormous advantage over the creatures they hope to shoot. That right too would not be infringed.
Life goes on.
James Buckley is a longtime Montecito resident. He welcomes questions or comments at email@example.com. Readers are invited to visit jimb.substack.com, where Jim’s Journals are on file. He also invites people to subscribe to Jim’s Journal.