Tuesday, 19 March 2013

More on Gun Control in the States

My previous article on gun control in the United States ended with doubt that effective control could be imposed. One obstacle is the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution which states, "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." However, it is only the federal government that is prevented from infringing the right to bear arms. The individual States can infringe all they want, up to the point of eliminating that "right" completely. If one does, that's a matter between the State government and its voters.

Update: I was wrong here. Forty-four state constitutions have an equivalent to the Second Amendment. The same article says, "As well, the Supreme Court of the United States has held that the protections of the Second Amendment apply against state governments and their political subdivisions (see: McDonald v. Chicago)."

The voters are the other obstacle to gun control. Many argue that "guns don't kill people," so guns should not be regulated. That ignores the point that many other objects that can deliberately or accidentally injure or kill people are festooned with regulations about who can use them (cars, for example, must not be driven by uninsured nor unlicensed nor intoxicated people) and where (i.e. on roads) and how (e.g. at or below the posted speed limit) whereas guns can be bought at gun fairs without background checks and gun storage regulations are not subject to spot checks in the States.

Anyway, my principal excuse for this post is to present two editorial cartoons on gun control that I happened on during my research. They each sum up one aspect of the gun control debate. The first is a comment on the rationale of the Second Amendment.

The second is about the argument by gun advocates that what is needed is to keep guns out of the hands of mentally ill people. It points out that many of these gun advocates also oppose measures that would help mentally ill people.

I will end by citing Max Weber's definition of a state as an entity that holds a monopoly on the legitimate use of force. For a state to allow relatively unrestricted access to weapons undermines its legitimacy as a state, or so it seems to me. The same argument, but even more urgently, applies to a state that allows other organizations to set up private armies, such as mercenary organizations, private military companies (which are mercenaries under another name), and private militias, armed groups explicitly formed as a counter to state power.

Private military companies have several other problems associated with them. For example, though they may serve with American troops, they are not covered by the Geneva Convention and are not subject to military discipline and law. Such problems led to the maritime equivalent of private military companies, privateers, being banned by the Treaty of Paris. It is worth noting that the United States is not a signitory party to the treaty, though it abides by its terms.

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