“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”.
Every time there is a horrifying incident like Sandy Hook; the embers of the gun debate are stirred and poked at, until the fire flares. Then it dies down until someone else; usually someone who should be receiving treatment for a mental illness; listens to the voices in their head and precipitates another tragedy.
Canada has about 3 million gun owners, and 7 million guns. Handgun ownership has required a permit since the 1930s. More regulation seemed to be a non-issue.
Then in 1989, a mentally unbalanced individual named Marc Lepine legally obtained an assault rifle, entered a technical school in Montreal, separated the women from the men, and killed fourteen women before killing himself.
The government of the day, being nanny statist by nature, immediately mandated a registry for all firearms. How having had his gun registered would have stopped Mr. Lepine was left unexplained.
Farmers with their 22s; hunters with their 270s and 12 gages, and collectors with their old WW1 Lee Enfield 303s had to try to find the serial number, and register. Apparently in a nanny state every gun is a potential murder weapon. Unfortunately, actual murderers didn’t bother to sign up.
A new bureaucracy was created – and this won’t surprise those who are skeptical of big government; it cost more than projected. But I’m sure it set some kind of a record because it ended up costing 1000 times as much as estimated! Thankfully, annual operating costs were only 30 times as much as estimated.
In 2012, a more conservative Canadian government ended the foolishness, dismantled the registry, and destroyed the records.
The framers of the US Constitution left their successors with a conundrum. “Well regulated” obviously means having regulations that are meaningful, and enforceable. But a right that “shall not be infringed”, could suggest that citizens have an unfettered right to bear arms.
However, there are no rights that I can think of that are entirely unfettered. The right to pursuit of happiness; liberty; and even life itself, are sometimes suspended. Even freedom of movement is constrained by traffic regulations.
The framers of the Constitution weren’t negligent; they just assumed that, like they themselves, their successors would be endowed with at least a modicum of common sense. (They may have assumed too much).
Firearms in 1778 are somewhat analogous to vehicles today, and to the need for mobility. The operation of vehicles is restricted to those who pass a relevant test and obtain a license.
Would a firearm safety test and a basic mental fitness test not be good and reasonable regulation? I’d suggest that the NRA –with a new executive, would be the ideal body to assume responsibility. Licensed owners would then be able to join a state militia; itself under the direction of the citizens of the state.
Because, (and I believe I’m on pretty solid ground here); it seems to me that while well regulated actually means – well regulated; governments are incapable of “well-regulating” pretty much anything.
As the Let’s Do It Ourselves trademark implies; it’s time to get back to Paddling Our Own Canoe!
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