I will be mailing this letter, with only the salutation changed to personalize it, to all Reps and Senators from TX, on any relevant committee, and to all SCOTUS Justices.
We have seen tragedy in this country for decades, from Waco and Ruby Ridge, to Oklahoma City, to most recently, Las Vegas, and all of these tragedies share a few common threads. First, and almost instantly, there is a clarion call to “enact common sense gun control,” regardless of the fact that Waco with the Branch Davidians was the Government storming their compound, or OKC was a van filled with fertilizer, or the Boston Marathon bomb was a pressure cooker, it’s always “we need gun control.” What is ignored in all of these events, is that the weapons used were either perverted from their intended use (the van, fertilizer, pressure cooker) or illegally obtained, as those bent on committing murder will not let something like a law stop them.
Looking as the Sutherland Springs, TX shooting, the assailant was dishonorably discharged from the U.S. Air Force and had a domestic violence charge in his past that was not expunged or otherwise done away with, so he was a prohibited possessor in the State of Texas. The reason he was able to purchase his weapon was not due to the law being inadequate, but rather, the U.S. Air Force not filing the records properly and/or in good time. Had any background check in the State of Texas been run on his and shown his dishonorable discharge, the sale of any firearm would have been denied instantly, and this would not have stopped him finding a way to murder those he hated. Had it not been for a man with an AR style rifle and another with a weapon of his own, the TX shooter may not have stopped until all in that church were dead, yet we have a former Vice President, on record about that very shooting and the man’s actions to stop a murderer, saying the man should not have had that weapon that day, indicating he would prefer more people die waiting on police than a law abiding citizen step in to protect people.
Looking to Maryland now, however, we see far more than negligence in the mindset that banning weapons will keep them away from criminals, we see poorly thought out and poorly worded legislation, just as we saw in the wake of Las Vegas with attempts to regulate or ban bump stocks, using the verbiage “any device capable of increasing the standard rate of fire” of a semi-automatic weapon. The current rush to ban “military style” weapons, or “weapons of war” is as ill-advised and ill thought out as the rush to ban “devices that increase the standard rate of fire” of a semi-automatic weapon.
When looking at the first example, you need only speak to anyone who has used semi-automatic firearms for any significant length of time, and they will tell you that all humans are born with 10 such devices, they’re called fingers. For any weapon that does not automatically cycle and fire the next round (which are currently not available to civilians without extensive licensing and fees) there is no “standard rate of fire.” That term in and of itself refers only to automatic weapons, the term semi-automatic means that one round is fired every time the trigger is pulled, no more. The move after Las Vegas was to ban Bump Stocks, which rock the weapon and have a bit of plastic that prevents you from fully depressing the trigger, so the trigger is “pulled” very rapidly. This, however, is not the only way to do this, and two require nothing more than clothing and your body. You see, if the shooter does not properly seat the rifle against his or her shoulder, the weapon could rock in their arm, causing a bump fire situation until they react to remove their finger. Likewise, you can fire from the hip, with a finger or thumb through a belt loop and the trigger guard, also allowing the recoil to rock the weapon, firing very rapidly, so the above legislation would, in effect, ban fingers and belt loops in addition to bump stocks. Not to mention, it bans inexperienced shooters from ever learning lesson one on the range. Again, I am not averse to regulating bump stocks, and in fact fully support such regulations, but as a college educated American, who studied History and Political Science specifically, I see warnings of government overreach, due to poorly worded legislation, and I don’t like it.
Moving to the new situation in Maryland, where “military style” weapons are being banned, or others are saying the Second Amendment does not include “weapons of war,” I could not disagree more on both parts. First, if you visit any Military installation, the hip of every Military Police Officer will have something I own on it, a semi-automatic pistol, either in 9MM or .45ACP caliber. Simply by those men and women using them in their day to day duties, that is now a “military style” weapon, and a “weapon of war” as it’s also carried overseas by infantry, special forces, MP and other Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines and Coast Guardsmen both in and out of theaters of war. Aside from the make and barrel type, my 12GA shotgun is the same, as it’s the most common gauge shotgun on the planet, it’s just that the Military and Law Enforcement use Bull Barrels and I have a Bird Barrel currently. In point of fact, the only weapon I own that is not a “military style” weapon is my AR-15, it simply mimics the look of a Military weapon, that being the M-16, but that’s where it ends. Other than a few specific jobs in the military, the vast majority of rifles used as Select Fire, meaning you have 3 or 4 options, those being Safe (firing disabled,) single shot, 3 shot burst, full automatic. I know very few positions in the Military today where I would want a rifle that cannot fire at least a 3 shot burst, and every rifle I’ve owned does only that.
Moving on with respect to my AR-15, the only thing that is actually the same with regards to weapon function (this ignores the look or the rail system allowing additions to the weapon) is the caliber of ammunition, that being 223 Remington or 556, oddly enough, many widely available rifles today, which are not banned, are more powerful than either of those calibers. With no more than gravity and resistance by air, a 223 or 556 round will travel roughly 1650 feet, just about a third of a mile, before it hits the ground. Other rifles, such as the 308, 7 Mag, or 300 Winchester will travel further, and do more damage at further distances, as they were designed for hunting larger game, yet these are not banned as they aren’t “military style” or “weapons of war,” although again, as with my pistol and shotgun, many weapons designed for hunters are used by the Military today, as they are trained to find and use the best tool for their job.
Now, why have I chosen to reach out only now? I was only four when John Hinckley Jr attempted to assassinate President Reagan, but I have studied that event as it began the snowball of “common sense gun control” almost 40 years ago. From the Brady Bill and other waiting period laws, to the background checks of today, nothing has worked to curtail the violence in the hearts of evil men and women. One need only look to Chicago, Detroit, Baltimore, or any other major city to find gang violence, and no weapon used by the thugs who seek to intimidate and control others is legally owned. Yet, in some of these places, citizens who just want to live their lives are disarmed, and even later told that unless the criminal is in the building with them, police will not respond until at the earliest, the next day. Worse still, some who defend themselves and either harm or kill their assailant are later charged with a crime, or the family of said attempted murderer are allowed to sue the person attacked for monetary damages.
As recently as 2012, George Zimmerman was attacked by a young man who may have been under the influence of narcotics, and defended himself, ultimately taking the life of his attacker, and was then charged with murder and civilly sued for defending his life. While yes, there are particulars of the case where I disagree with choices made, or need more information, the simple fact that Martin was attacking Zimmerman, and inaction would lead to Zimmerman’s death, have not changed.
Only two years later, Officer Wilson was forced to choose to shoot Michael Brown in Ferguson Missouri, or he would have died. The mantra was quickly taken up by the media that Brown was running away, or had his hands up, or was kneeling, and all three have him shot in the back, while forensics show the rounds that struck him entered from the front, corroborating Wilson’s story that Brown was attacking him, yet a Police Officer who had responded to the scene of a crime, who was being either aggressively approached or attacked, lost his livelihood and had to move his family, because of a societal attitude that all boils down to “blame the tool, not the criminal.”
Sadly, this attitude is now so prevalent, that we see situations like Maryland, where legislation passes that is so poorly worded, anyone could point out what I have, and ban semi-automatic pistols, or shotguns, as if the Military uses them, they are now “weapons of war.” These same people often point out that “you don’t need an AR 15 to defend your home” or “the second amendment was about the military” and they are wrong on both counts. If someone enters my home illegally, and is carrying a weapon, seeing my pistol is likely to get me shot, while seeing me holding my AR 15 causes instant pause and often flight rather than fight. Were I restricted to my sidearm, I would most often be forced to use it to defend myself, but the mere sight of a rifle in my hands, the mere threat of force, often causes attackers to flee, allowing me to report the crime to the proper authorities and no one is harmed unless the criminals resist their later arrest.
The second argument, that the Second Amendment either only allows the use of weapons available at the time it was written, or that it applies only the Military, are both just as wrong as the assertion that “you don’t need (whatever weapon they hate at the time) to defend yourself” in that it seeks to impose rules where those rules have been specifically forbidden. The wording and timing of the Second Amendment are concrete facts, we know it was written just after a bloody war of independence from a government which sought to subjugate the colonies, and use them to make money, with no respect for the people who would be actually producing what the British would use or sell. That scenario showed our Founding Fathers that, if the government chooses tyranny over respect for the governed, the only viable option is for the people, the citizens and civilians, to stand up and say no more. Yes, our Military swear to uphold and defend the Constitution, but that does not prevent a tyrannical government from locking up all Military installations and only allowing those who will swear fealty and loyalty to the government out, thus ensuring they are well armed and the rest of us are left with what we personally own, the exact situation the colonists found themselves in just over 200 years ago. While this argument can be used to say that tanks, RPG’s, planes, and so on are legal for civilians to buy, there is valid reason to prevent a civilian from purchasing those as they have use only in a theater of war, and we all hope that the streets of small-town America never become such a theater. Saying, however, that a weapon that merely resembles another, and is the same caliber, but is actually less powerful and useful in battle, is a “weapon of war” or “military style” while other more useful and powerful weapons are allowed, shows an arrogance and ignorance that, in the halls of State of Federal government is very dangerous.
To show, using another Amendment, where this can go, we need only look at the potential ramifications of Net Neutrality being repealed. There are already allegations of Twitter and Facebook censoring certain viewpoints and not others, which from what I’ve seen amounts to stopping speech some find offensive and allowing calls for actual violence, based solely on political affiliation. Without Net Neutrality, all that needs be done is for Twitter, Facebook, or another to report to the ISP being used that someone is “engaging in hate speech or violent online behavior” and that person now either loses their internet connection, or must pay astronomical rates to keep it, all based only one a simple report. This, oddly enough, does exactly what I use as an example of how the Founding Fathers knew about and included advances in technology. The argument is often made that the Second Amendment only covers weapons that were available in the late 18th Century, but what is ignored is that the Puckle Gun was already available, was a rapid fire weapon, and was just too expensive for the Colonial Government to purchase. But, if your weapons can be taken because they aren’t covered by the Bill of Rights because they didn’t exist in the late 18th Century, so can your methods of speaking. Looking to the time of the Bill Of Rights, only the early printing press, quill and ink, and your voice were available. So, by the logic of “only the weapons available in colonial times” are covered, so too are methods of speech.
To close, and I do thank you for taking the time to read this letter, I will quote the Tenth Amendment.
“The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved for the States respectively, or to the people.”
In short, anything the Constitution does not specifically mention as a power of the Federal Government, or specifically prohibit the Federal Government from doing, is something only The People, or the individual States can do. We all know that the Bill of Rights does not grant us the right to free speech, peaceable assembly, petition, to bear arms, or any other right. Rather, the Constitution and Bill Of Rights simply enumerate the rights all of us have, and state that the Federal or State government must protect them. As the Third Amendment prevents quartering of Soldiers in citizens’ homes, the Federal Government cannot do that, and also must prevent States from doing so either. As there is no mention in the Declaration of Independence, Constitution, or Bill of Rights of the word Marriage, let alone what that is, that is not a power delegated to the Federal Government or prohibited to the States, so it is up to each state to decide for themselves.
We must reclaim common sense in all aspects of governance, as we are moving toward a time when the Federal Government may say that as someone is unpopular, they may be jailed so others are not forced to hear them, or as a certain religion is unpopular, you may not hold public office if you don’t renounce your faith. Oddly enough we have sitting Representatives and Senators already disparaging those nominated for federal office due to their faith, while private citizens scream that a teacher joining a student led prayer is a violation of the First Amendment. For too long we have allowed the perversion of our way of life, the perversion of our founding principles, and if we don’t act soon to reclaim what those actually are, and protect them for all Americans, we will lose our country as we did in 1861, and I fear not even a four year war could repair it this time.