Science and the Second Amendment
My qualifications. You may think the title is unusual, but science is about using observation and reason to understand the world. I think some reason is needed in the Second Amendment debate. I have some qualifications as I grew up in Oklahoma where camouflage is the unofficial state color and most everyone owns a gun, or two, or more. I own several and have hunted and shot targets since I was old enough, that’s 12 in my family. My dad thoroughly trained me in gun safety and I was warned if I ever violated a safety rule, I would be 21 before I ever touched another gun. I have known many gun owners who are fine men and women and I was an NRA member back in the days when it encouraged marksmanship, sportsmanship and gun safety. The observations are significant events chosen to illustrate that recent attempts to remove some restrictions on gun laws may be a bad idea.
Humorous Observations. I’ve observed a lot of use and misuse of guns in my life. For instance, I have a neighbor who shoots his AK-47 off his back porch into the lake. He doesn’t have a proper backstop and there are at least 20 houses in range of a ricochet. I’ve talked to him about that and the disturbance but he insists it’s his right and perfectly legal. I’m not sure that’s so as neither the bullets nor the noise stop at the edge of his property, but it’s not a good idea argue too much with a man holding an AK-47. I’ve learned to adapt, though I feel a little conspicuous wearing my orange hat when I go for a walk or work in the yard. I’ve noticed that guns tend to boost people’s egos, which might be a good thing. But it also seems to make some people feel invincible and take chances a reasonable person wouldn’t take. Some of my neighbors recently marched on Washington with their guns to “take back our country”. They either trust the government more than they let on or they have lost it. The government has tanks and planes and nuclear weapons.
Not so Humorous Observations. In Nevada recently, a Sheriff’s Deputy and National Guardsman just back from Afghanistan, was called to check on a domestic disturbance. He was gunned down as he stepped from his patrol car by a man wielding an assault rifle. Last year, two deputies in a small town in Oklahoma went to serve a man a warrant for a minor offense. The man opened up on them with an automatic rifle as they stood at the door, killing both and wounding a passerby across the street. A witness said the shots came too fast to count so I looked up the rifle. The ad says it is not good for hunting but might be useful for self-defense or to take to work. Those officers never had a chance. In my hometown, a man got upset by an editorial a woman wrote in the local paper. He bought a handgun at the local pawnshop and the owner showed him how to load it and fire it. He then went to the cafe where the woman worked and shot her dead right in front of all the customers.
Politics. Unfortunately, the 2nd amendment has become a hot political issue and some of our politicians have used it to the limit – and then some. If one politician wants to allow concealed carry, another will see that and raise him an open carry, and another will up that by an open carry in bars. An important rule of gun safety is that guns and alcohol don’t mix. The Oklahoma Legislature has topped all that by passing a bill exempting the state from Federal gun laws. The Governor vetoed the bill and the override attempt failed, but the sponsors have vowed to keep trying – at least until the next election. A legislator who is a former state trooper, says that it is a “bad, bad, bill that will make law enforcement in Oklahoma a very dangerous job”. He’s right. The supporters must have forgotten that Timothy McVeigh, the terrorist who blew up the Federal Building in Oklahoma City, was stopped for a traffic violation but was held when the patrolman noticed he had a concealed handgun loaded with Black Talon ammunition. McVeigh was still in jail when they traced the bombing to him.
Rights. We are guaranteed our Second Amendment rights and no one is really trying to take those away. While considering our gun rights, we need to also consider the rights and safety of our peace officers and our citizens. Registration of handguns, background checks, safety training, and a cooling off period for buying handguns seem to be good ideas. No one really needs to own an assault rifle, high capacity clips, or bullets designed to penetrate an officer’s safety vest. If we truly respect our officers, we will give them the regulations they need to prevent crime and have some safety in their work. Other amendments, such as the First Amendment, have reasonable restrictions to insure public safety and protect the rights of others. It should be no different for gun rights.