Photo credit: The U.S. Army

Photo credit: The U.S. Army

I wrote Part 2 of Dead for a Ducat on June 25, 2012. Then I got lost along the way. Between that time and now, a little over seven months, there have been six mass shootings, the Aurora shooting coming barely a month after I wrote Part 2 and culminating in two more, an Oregon Shopping mall and an elementary school in Sandy Hook, Connecticut, at year’s end. Both of those were in the first ten days of December 2012.

Since then the arguments have raged on both sides. Having seen these arguments before, I decided to take a look into one of the most oft cited reasons the pro-gun folks give for their no compromise point of view regarding the Second Amendment: Guns=Freedom. Having never quite understood that seemingly rote response by gun advocates, I thought I’d check into it, try to find their explanation and in the process, understand their ferocity on this topic. I have also heard relentlessly about the “responsible gun owners” out there, so I set out to find these folks and really pay attention to their explanations of this point of view.

In order to do that, I headed for some pro-gun magazines, organizations and message boards, some buried deep in the Web. Some of them were frankly a little scary to my mind, but I really wanted to understand. One problem I encountered was weeding out the folks I considered bona fide nuts from the people who seemed to give a reasoned argument. This was a lot more difficult than it sounds, although one guy who said: “I’m actually worried that the mob will come after me or send professional assassins. If this is the case, I’m not a very good shot and would require at least a mini-gun to properly deal with the situation. I’d also like to own some type of chemical gas in case I get trapped in the bathroom and have no ammo but only my chemical resistant gear. What is happening to this country that we can’t protect ourselves!” seems to easily qualify as a nut even though he put at the bottom of his post: “Criminals and the mentally ill should NOT own firearms. Background check everyone.” I am not sure he would recognize the irony in the statement about mental illness. I am also not sure he’d see the remarkable shortsightedness of his not having become a crack shot by now if he really believes the assassins are at his door.

So anyway, I chalked guys like that off of the list automatically and read some of the other folks.

Essentially it seems to boil down to this:

Guns=Freedom folks read the Second Amendment, and interpret it, in a way that is reminiscent of Fundamentalist Christians’ reading and interpretation of the Bible: Literally as written and interpreted  from their point of view only.

-Their point of view is that the government, pretty much any government, has an inherent predisposition to tyranny.

-Due to the possibility (or in some folks’ minds the probability) that the government will become tyrannical they have, by virtue of the Second Amendment, a right and indeed a duty to protect themselves and the country from said tyranny.

-That the only reason we have not devolved into an authoritarian, totalitarian, socialist, Marxist, Communist, martial law ruled (all of these terms are used regularly and sometimes, remarkably, interchangeably) country is because the populace is armed–sort of a mutual annihilation concept much like the Cold War. i.e. as long as we’re armed to the teeth that won’t happen and it’s the only reason it hasn’t already happened.

-The Second Amendment exists to guarantee that none of the other parts of the Constitution can be rescinded. The Constitution should never ever be changed. It is a fixed document handed down to us by the Founding Fathers. There is a view that the Constitution is much like the tablets of Moses, written in stone with no changes to be made, ever, while ignoring changes that have already been made (i.e every single other amendment including the Second.) It’s a strange circular kind of thinking. However I am confused by what exactly they are referencing when speaking of the Constitution. They interestingly never mention the 13th Amendment ending slavery or the 19th Amendment giving women the right to vote, and they certainly never discuss the 21st Amendment which repealed the 18th Amendment that was the start of Prohibition. In fact, I’ve yet to find anyone on these boards who talks about anything but the Second Amendment, although clearly the Stone Tablets have been added to over the years.

A quick date line is: “The Constitution” signed September, 1787; Bill of Rights (originally 12 now 10 “Amendments”) proposed by James Madison in August, 1789 but not ratified until December, 1791. The other 17 Amendments were ratified one by one between 1795 and 1992, with the 26th Amendment being the one some of us most remember, signed in 1971, changing the voting age to 18. This shows that the “Constitution” to which these folks refer has been a changing, evolving and dynamic document since its inception, however I’m going to assume that when most of them speak of the Constitution, they are actually referencing the document itself plus the Bill of Rights, which are the first ten amendments, but I’m not entirely sure.

-When the Founders wrote the Second Amendment they were saying that all citizens had a right to own any kind of weapon that could possibly be used against them by an occupying force, nevermind that the modern weaponry of the time was a musket and that most folks didn’t have cannons in their front yards.

Forgive me. I’m really trying hard not to be too sarcastic regarding that argument. Onward.

I saw this argument over and over again. One of the most interesting permutations of it came when one very articulate poster wrote that when someone asks why anyone would NEED 100 round drum magazine, the questioner should be informed that the verb usage in the question is wrong. It’s not about whether or not anyone needs it, it’s simply their right to have it. His response was: “Don’t answer them. It’s not about need. It’s our right to have the same firepower as the cops and/or military in order to keep tyranny from our shores.”

If we follow that reasoning to its logical conclusion, the question then becomes where do we draw the line on weapons or is a line, any line, a violation of their perception and interpretation of the Second Amendment? Now we’re in some really strange territory.

I got to thinking that if that argument is to be accepted, then if I have enough money I could buy just about anything and it would be okay with them. So I started my armed fantasy with a Powerball ticket. (Yeah, who wouldn’t?) If I won multiple millions, oh, I dunno, let’s say I won $400 million bucks, then I went online and looked around at helicopters. I could buy a really nifty McDonnell Douglas MD530F, used, that looks a lot like the Hueys used in Vietnam, for a little under $2 million, or I could buy an older Bell Textron for $3.4 million and have a bit more room for the guns that I’m about to buy and mount. I’ve got $400 mil. The chopper is a drop in the bucket. Get the license, the insurance, pay the FBO, do whatever is necessary for the ownership of the helicopter. All legal.

So now I look for a minigun (a fully automatic gatling gun). The Terminator may be able to hand hold it, but a regular human probably can’t. An M134 is much like what’s in a military Blackhawk helicopter. (I also learned that the Apache helicopter has bigger guns, but an M134 is nothing to sneeze at.) If I can find one made prior to 1986 (before the assault weapons ban was signed) and find someone selling one, I can legally buy it. From all reports, there are quite a few actually out there but it would be a person to person sale probably. It’ll also cost me a minimum of $250K, but again, with $400 mil it’s not that big a deal. I’ll pay all the extra permitting fees to own it. I want one that’s fully automatic, not some wimpy semi-auto even if I can illegally tamper with it to make fully auto. (I don’t want to break any laws and end up in jail.) Arizona seems to be the most likely place to look for one, according to most “guns for sale boards,” don’t ask me why. I’m guessing their gun laws are almost nil, but I confess I didn’t do comparative research by state. Grapevine info is that Arizona is the place to start.

If I pay a few bucks and start a private security company, and can prove that I did that, I might be able to buy a post-1986 M184 or two legally. (From what I learned no post-1986 full auto can be owned, unless you are a police dept, governmental entity, like the Army, or you are a class III FFL holder, and I learned that’s a pretty hard license to get, but money will probably get me what I want.) I’ll pay for the mounts and the installation. Great, I’m in business. Nope, wait. I need ammo. I’ll need lots of it as most mini-guns (love the ame) can fire 2-6000 rounds per minute. There are many belt loading ammunition types, and it’ll be expensive. This gun will probably cost me about $750 a minute, a MINUTE, to shoot depending on my ammo choice. (One poster said I could buy 10 M60’s for the cost of one M134, but I’ve got my heart set on the Terminator’s gun.) Now I’ll go park it at Lakeview Airport and buzz a couple neighborhoods now and then for kicks. Would seem a shame to just leave it there sitting idle. Now I’m armed just about as well as the Army. It’s my Second Amendment right.

My neighbor, however, is mad that my dog barks and wakes his baby, and he’s really sick of me buzzing his house with my ersatz gun ship, so he buys a grenade launcher, or better yet a couple of Stinger missiles. He won’t use them unless I fire on his house. Phew.

You see? This is where that argument leads us. If we do indeed have a right to be armed as well as the cops/military in order to combat governmental tyranny, then we must conclude that the above scenario would/should be legal by that argument’s standards.

The problem is that that’s absurd, and I’m going to go out on a limb and say that the horde of responsible gun owners we hear about would agree with me, although from what I read, I can’t be sure of that. We already know we can’t park an armed tank in our driveway. We would be locked up if we had 500 grenades in our shed out back. Even most of the folks on these message boards espousing this argument seem to accept that. I am trying to figure out where they draw the line.

Do you want your neighbor to have a grenade launcher? He’s a bit of a bastard on his best day. What if that neighbor is black? Does that change your attitude? (I did notice what seems to be an underlying racism in a lot of the posts but I’m not going to address that in this post.)

So, again I want to ask them, where do they draw the line and who draws it? Is the line drawn by a. No one, there is no line because we’re entitled to have whatever we want, b. An individual, based on how much money and/or fear of tyranny they have, or c. Collectively based on what’s reasonable in a civilized society and passed by a governing body into law?

Right now there seems to be some kind of collective agreement, as in the case for you not owning a tank and your neighbor not being allowed a Stinger. Except for a few clearly unstable nuts posting to these boards, even the staunchest Second Amendment “military parity” arguers seem to sign on to this collective agreement tacitly. I have no doubt that nearly 100% of them would say that private ownership of a nuclear weapon should be illegal. So there you are. There is one line, drawn collectively and agreed to.

So the next question would have to be what constitutes tyranny? Majority rule with which you disagree passionately? Is that tyranny? How about the actions taken at Kent State or Chicago 1968, by National Guard and metro police forces? Tyrannical or a prudent and reasoned response by government? Would an armed response by the citizenry have been warranted in those cases? Depends on who you stand with and what your individual morality is in those cases doesn’t it? Who decides?

How about the response to Civil Rights Protests in the 60’s, or the WTO riots in Seattle in 1999? Tyrannical response or prudent and reasonable? Again, depends a bit what side you’re on as to which way you might answer that question, so let’s say you thought it was over the top and a step toward tyranny, would the protesters have had a right, or a duty if we follow the Guns=Freedom argument, to fire on the police?

This argument is too nebulous. It seems based on a lot of what ifs, and in some cases downright paranoia. Their reading of the Constitution seems a bit incomplete and ill defined, as does their definition of tyranny. And that’s a problem. It seems that it’s a highly subjective point of view clad in collective clothing. Each proponent of this view feels him/herself to be the reasonable gun owner, entitled to have whatever they want, unwilling to change any laws, unwilling to consider moving the line of what’s reasonable. Quite often they seem not to see the line that is already drawn and that they agree to.

So I ask again, what’s the line? Explain it to me. I’m genuinely curious and not trying to be a smartass. No privately owned nukes. Check. We all agree to that line. No tanks in your driveway. Check. These folks seem okay with that. What about a guy who has 300 guns in his house two doors down? Still okay with that? Willing to draw a line on how many weapons a person can own? (Most cops and GI’s don’t own 300 guns each, so let’s go back to that parity idea.) No. Not willing to discuss an upper limit number. Ammunition stockpile? A non-starter. Fully automatic weapons? No.

Then please, tell me where you WOULD draw the line, Mr. Guns=Freedom guy, and on what criteria would you base your decision? I’m trying here but I’m baffled.

While you compose your response, I’ll be painting my soon to be gunship matte black and talking to Joe-that’s-not-my-real-name in some abandoned warehouse in Phoenix negotiating the purchase of my M134’s. I’ll be sure to dazzle him and the authorities with wads and wads of expensive permits, suitcases full of greenbacks and the Constitution, however you define it. I’m telling ya, this Powerball ticket is a winner and it’s only a matter of time until I can fulfill my dream of buzzing your house so low that the dulcet tones of Wayne LaPierre disappear completely in the noise, making him look like a sock puppet. Many of you claim he doesn’t speak for you. So talk to me. Tell me what Constitution, or portion thereof, you’re referring to beyond the Second Amendment of which you are so fond. Explain why you think tyranny is inevitable without your having a closet full of semi-automatics. Explain the line and the laws to which you’d agree. I’m really confused and frankly, would rather spend my money on travel or my grandson’s college fund than on that armed chopper. So please, dash my confusion to bits, and soon, because I know in my heart this ticket, this is the one that’s the big winner.

My ship is coming in, fellas, and I’m hoping there’s no artillery on it, even if you feel it’s my right to have it.

Sam Jasper is currently waging a largely silent war against gravity and gravitas. It’s a delicate balance. Sam is co-editor of A Howling in the Wires (2010) and a partner in Gallatin and Toulouse Press. She was a contributor to Pelican Press’ Louisiana in Words (2007), and reprised her contributor role in the Chin Music Press’ Where We Know (2010). Sam also erratically maintains a blog called New Orleans Slate (named not after the online mag but the roofing tiles of old buildings and the primary school chalkboard on which the nun’s pointer hung) and has a collection of letters written immediately after Katrina at the Katrina Refrigerator blog. Sam is also a regular contributor at the Back of Town blog.

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