Thursday, May 23, 2013


About the Ownership and Use of Guns

I'm obsessing again about the Second Amendment, the Supreme Court, and the possession and use of guns. Here's a copy 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.
The first ten amendments were restrictions on the federal government.  The federal government must not prosecute persons for what they say or for what religion they profess.  The federal government must not require any home owner to provide housing for soldiers in time of peace.  The federal government must not harass people with unnecessary searches and procedures.  And so on.  Until after 1868, when the Fourteenth Amendment was adopted, these restrictions did not apply to the States.  The Amendment contains the sentence "No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws."  Courts have ruled that this phrase applies the restrictions of the first ten amendment to the States as well as to the federal government.

Leaving aside any additional discussion of constitutional law, I wonder why we should treat gun ownership and use any other way than the way we treat automobile ownership and operation.  I don't drive a car any more.  I'm too old and my eyesight is less than perfect.  However, when I was driving, I had to possess a document called a "title" that showed that I owned the car; I had to buy license plates for operate the car; I had to pay an annual tax on the car; I had to maintain a driver license and have it renewed every four years or so; and I had to have liability insurance to pay for any damage or injury I caused while operating the car.

Is it foolish for me to suppose that the same rules should apply to guns?  A car and a gun are both lethal weapons as well as useful objects with other purposes.  If I were to buy and carry a gun, should I not be required to maintain liability insurance, have a license to operate that must be renewed periodically, pay an annual fee for carrying and using the gun, and maintain a title of ownership?  These are regarded as reasonable restrictions on the ownership and use of automobiles.  Would they be regarded as infringements if applied to guns?  What do you think the Supreme Court would decide?

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