After the heinous Sandy Hook massacre, the nation is in shock and about to consider new restrictions on "assault rifles" and high-capacity magazines, at the least.
It was the expiration of the first ban in 2004 that set off the high-capacity semi-auto rage in the gun world, driven by fear of a repeat. Fifteen years ago, people were plinking with their .22s or sighting in their .270 bolt-actions at gun ranges; now they resemble a set from "Act of Valor."
The NRA opposes any new legislation, of course - it's always the first step on a slippery slope that will lead inevitably to total gun abolition and then irreversible tyranny. The Brady Bill that the NRA fought has kept guns out of the hands of hundreds of felons and known psychotics annually, assuredly saving the lives of many police officers and civilians. For me, the minor inconvenience of a background check is worth that reckoning. I do not buy the slippery slope argument, especially after the Supreme Court wisely ruled in 2008 that the Second Amendment guarantees an individual's right to bear arms, apart from any membership in a militia.
The importance of this right was brought home to me many years ago by the harrowing experience of a female co-worker in Texas. Her car had broken down at night on a freeway between Dallas and Ft. Worth, and the "good Samaritan" who purported to help her instead drove her down an isolated dirt road, drug her out of the car, hit her and was attempting to rape her when he got a blast to the abdomen with her .38 revolver, which she had furtively retrieved from her purse in the darkness.
Rather than finding her strangled body in the dirt the next day, the police found the assailant slumped in his truck, alive but unconscious from blood loss. The lesson: The police cannot be everywhere at all times, and a statistical decline in gun violence that would probably result from any prohibition would be of little comfort to a victim facing a predator in a dark parking lot.
Moreover, when gun bans in England and Australia were passed, the promised decline in crime did not happen; rather, crime rates, especially burglary and home invasions, soared. More than the presence of police, it is the prospect of an armed victim that offers the strongest deterrence to criminal scumbags. Thousands of crimes are prevented every year by armed citizens, yet these cases are virtually blacked out by the mainstream media.
Likewise, when CCL (Concealed Carry Laws) were passed in many states, gun control advocates predicted society would degenerate into a Mad Max frontier; in fact, the opposite has happened - with 8 million CCL permit holders, the murder rate is the lowest it's been in four decades, and CCL holders even have a lower crime rate than police officers.
The question then, it is really about "assault rifles" (defined here as a high-capacity semi-auto carbine) and high-cap magazines, and could their restriction marginally reduce the carnage in crimes like the Aurora and Sandy Hook shootings? Perhaps. But I believe the NRA is right on this: advertising a "gun-free zone" anywhere, from schools to movie theaters, is unilateral disarmament and tantamount to an invitation for mayhem.
Aside from an individual's right to self defense, the Second Amendment was enacted as a backstop to the First Amendment, guaranteeing the right of collective self-defense against the possible tyranny of a future government. Gun control advocates dismiss this as some kind of Rambo fantasy (and for many, I'm sure it is), but it is not unhinged paranoia that decries the following trend:
The NSA and an army of other data-mining agencies and private outfits now intercepting all our communications without warrants or supervision, effectively abolishing the Fourth Amendment; an NDAA that virtually abolishes the Fifth Amendment, allowing for detention without due process; the DHS and other agencies stockpiling enormous quantities of ammunition; the Pentagon increasingly involved in domestic surveillance and law enforcement, violating Posse Comitatus; and a network of Halliburton/KBR "detention camps" now being staffed by National Guard recruits.
I would be more comfortable with any further restriction of Second Amendment rights if either the Obama administration or the Republican House could explain what the hell is going on here. Armageddon was a no-show again on Dec. 21, 2012, so what are they prepping for?
I would also demand a more thorough investigation into the recent atrocities than what has occurred so far. In the vast majority of these high-profile massacres, from Columbine to Adam Lanza, the perpetrators were on anti-depressant drugs and under the supposed supervision of psychiatrists, none of whom have been investigated. In both the Aurora and Sandy Hook shootings, there were initial reports of second gunmen (in the latter case, from police transmission recordings), and these remain unexplained. Furthermore, the authorities have quarantined these cases from proper investigation by the press, so that we are not certain exactly what happened.
If and when all these questions are satisfactorily answered, I could live with an assault weapon ban. But until this happens, I believe that the NRA, despite its often uncompromising fanaticism, is as essential to the preservation of our eroding civil liberties as the ACLU.
Travis Kelly is a web/graphic designer, writer and cartoonist in Grand Junction. See his work or contact him at www.traviskelly.com.