The loudest voices in the gun control debate are the fearful and the fetishists. The fetishists want the biggest bang from the loudest toy and any effort to limit their appetites are viewed as denial of life itself. The fearful only encounter guns on news reports filled with tragedy and fear the day the unseen power of guns will touch their lives. In the middle live the non-gun owners whose only battles are paychecks and mortgages and gun owners who view their firearms as tools to be respected, protection they hope they never have to use and recreation in controlled venues.
In Washington, despite bipartisan support and public polls supporting some restrictions on the purchase of firearms, the U.S. Senate will not even vote to hold a vote on any gun legislation. In this era of the legislative arms race, the middle doesn’t get much play.
The word regulate appears exactly three times in the U.S. Constitution. It appears twice in Article 1, Section 8; granting power to the Congress to regulate interstate commerce and regulate how money is valued.
The third time is not in the body of the original document but in the second amendment as part of the compound word “well-regulated”.
The fetishists and their enablers in the N.R.A. either ignore this clause - instead choosing to chant the more attractive “shall not be infringed” mentioned earlier in the amendment or they argue semantics claiming “regulated” actually is intended as “maintained". Both arguments ignore that the word is plainly there and we clearly accept some forms of regulation on speech and public gatherings despite the First Amendment's declarative “shall make no law".
Most of the fearful suffer from a lack of familiarity with guns. They were not raised in the gun culture. They do not sit on deer stands on cold October mornings. Gun shows are festivals for the weird and the paranoid. Gun ranges are no places for a family outing or a gathering of friends.
Unless they have been a victim of crime, those who hold an irrational fear of firearms only encounter them through fiction or blood filled news broadcasts. Guns can never be a source of pleasure. They are the deliverers of death and mayhem. They see no purpose for their existence and believe the world would be better if they were treated as a virulent disease and completely eliminated.
Where the fetishists are correct is gun regulations as they now exist would not prevent most tragedies. When he entered Sandy Hook Elementary, Adam Lanza held a legally purchased assault rifle and he had no criminal background. The same is true for Colorado move theater shooter James Eagan Holmes. In Eagan’s case, he directly purchased the firearms and passed several background checks.
Where the fearful are correct is guns greatly increase the potential scope for mayhem. In a matter of minutes, Adam Lanza was able to kill 20 children and 6 adults. James Eagan Holmes in less time killed 12 and maimed 58. Evil will always be with us and the ability to control mad men will always have limits, but when guns are added to those two ingredients, the outcome will always have deadly finality.
However, just because those who see owning guns as a right passed down from the Almighty and those who do not know the difference between a double barrel and a banana clip have taken these points of correctness to create walls of righteousness does not mean we should be paralyzed in the status quo. Instead of focusing on karmic salves such as cosmetic assault weapons bans which are easily bypassed by gun manufacturers or dipping into the paranoid fever swamp that only guns prevent the government from taking over everything, we should be seeking regulations which may not prevent but could limit the horror of the Lanza’s and the Holmes’.
For example, anyone who needs more than a handful of rounds is either intent on fun or madness. Instead of limiting or eliminating high capacity magazines, why not require anyone purchasing beyond a certain amount of ammunition submit to the same background check as those who apply for concealed carry permits? For a small touch of regulation, those who think it is fun to fill targets full of holes would still be able to have their hobby but someone who intends an extended firefight with law enforcement may be stopped before they leave the store.