Dan Thomasson: Firearms mania seems to fall into several broad categories with elements of each in the other. Present in all three classifications is an element of paranoia, a strong belief that without these weapons one is not likely to survive the truly crazy (like maybe one's testy neighbor or a disaffected co-worker or student seeking revenge from bullies) or the ubiquitous criminals that use guns as necessary tools in their business
Firearms mania seems to fall into several broad categories with elements of each in the other.
Those classified as "gun nuts" generally seem to believe that ownership of one is an unalienable right like life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Then there are those who are nuts about guns, who collect them and seem almost to consider them affectionate, even sexual objects.
Then there are nuts for whom guns become an instrument to fulfill the dictates of a diseased mind, like the Son of Sam or the young man who opened fire on policemen wounding two at the Pentagon last week and had his twisted brains blown out for the trouble.
Present in all three classifications is an element of paranoia, a strong belief that without these weapons one is not likely to survive the truly crazy (like maybe one's testy neighbor or a disaffected co-worker or student seeking revenge from bullies) or the ubiquitous criminals that use guns as necessary tools in their business. It is a violent world that needs violent answers.
Those who regard guns as an unimpeachable right protected by the Second Amendment of the Constitution of the United States don't want any restrictions on when, where, or how they are present on a person -- always, in a bar, near a school, in a church, openly on the hip, or concealed. They eschew the notion that something bad might happen with such uninhibited possession, arguing that in fact if everyone were packing, all the other nuts would think twice, except maybe those who are truly crazy and operating on irrational impulses.
This way of thinking of course is loved by the firearms industry and its lobby, the National Rifle Association, and generally ignores all the statistics that reveal annual carnage and mayhem might have been cut drastically without the presence of that assault rifle or 9 mm automatic. So those who follow the philosophy of might makes right are once again seeking to overthrow the ability of states and municipalities to control the traffic of firearms, an estimated 300 million of which already are in the hands of citizens.
They have turned to the U.S. Supreme Court where the nation's number one gun nut, Associate Justice Antonin Scalia, a turkey-hunting sportsman, holds sway. As a kid Scalia reportedly carried his Junior ROTC rifle back and forth to school on the New York subway, perhaps displaying the early onset of gun lover syndrome.
In a challenge to the District of Columbia's strict gun control laws last year, Scalia led the Court platoon that in a 5-4 vote declared the founders meant that gun ownership was an individual right not a collective one for the forming of militias when they adopted the Second Amendment. But did they mean that to apply only to federal enclaves or does it extend also to states and their cities, like Chicago, where strict restrictions are being challenged in the wake of the D.C. decision?
It seems to be a tricky question based on the issue of "incorporation" that only those who consider themselves constitutional scholars appear to understand or can even attempt to explain. Suffice it to say, that if the court does "incorporate" the Second Amendment, it would supersede state's rights and go a long way toward eliminating gun ownership restrictions for self-defense, a claim that everyone makes when he buys a handgun or assault weapon. Hunters and trap shooters generally are in another class.
The arguments before the high court took place last Tuesday on the Chicago case, just a few days ahead of the Pentagon incident where a troubled 36-year-old Californian, neatly dressed in a coat and tie, parked his car, loaded both pockets with guns and ammo, and calmly walked to the front entrance of one of the most heavily guarded buildings in America, firing without warning at the guards. It was over in seconds.
Perhaps had the incident occurred before the arguments at the court, those defending Chicago's right to limit the possession of guns, if that is even possible in this day and age, would have had an enhanced cause, even for a Scalia who otherwise champions law and order.