Thursday, May 1, 2014

Examining Arms Rights

Don't currently arm myself, so...
So there's a few nations in the world where their citizens have either de jure or de facto rights to arm themselves, and since the United States of America is one of those countries, and their overall cultural dominance in the western sphere, while inexplicable, is palpable, most discussions of the subject centre around the Second Amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America.

Now, I want to get into an arms rights discussion without being dragged into the absolute mire that is the seeming inability of literally anyone who lives south of Washington, DC to correctly interpret the phrase "a well organized militia". This can be relatively difficult to do because most of the people on the internet seem to be either American or confused about what laws are relevant when you're discussing something on its own merits.

Then I remembered I operate a blog owned by google over which I have relatively complete creative control.

So the issue at hand is whether or not the citizens of a theoretically civilized hypothetical state should be allowed to arm themselves, and if so, to what extent. I usually start thinking about something like this by defining terms and I think we can take "citizen" and "state" as read, by the definition of what counts as "armed" is sufficiently contentious that in states where the citizens are allowed to be armed, the debate usually revolves around the idea of what is sufficiently armed.

To start off with, as a consequence of my lifestyle and trade I am at any given point in time within an arm's reach of something that either is already a weapon or at least would make a very good improvised weapon. Most of these objects are commonplace, indeed even necessary in the lives of everyone, and to ban them outright as arms would be so ludicrous they aren't even discussed.

The main reason we don't think of knives and blunt objects as weapons with which one can be armed anymore is that they're really not effective. We are a world in the firearm age after all, so advanced in our understanding of that technology that the weapons being talked about when most nations gained their arms rights are now seen as primitive and obsolete to the point of uselessness.

In order to reach a suitable definition of sufficiently armed, we have to establish what we're arming for. While I, with my backpack full of knives, am sufficiently armed for the task of taking any given animal or plant and fashioning it into something delicious and edible, I am not sufficiently armed for the task of actually hunting or otherwise slaughtering that animal.

The reason often given for a right to bear arms among the citizenry is the ability for the citizenry to defend itself from something, either the government as in American rhetoric or simply outside forces as is the case in Sweden, or even the enemy within as is often cited as the case in Israel. So what is adequately armed?

In any of those three cases, the US armed forces define adequately armed as weapons that in some cases allow many miles of stand-off, or vehicles impervious to any homemade explosive and quite a few different sorts of military hardware. So what we have to ask yourself is whether or not the average citizen should have the right to own a predator drone or the FIM-92 stinger. Can I drive a C-2 Leopard Main Battle Tank to work to protect myself against the equally well-armed criminal element, or patrol the grounds of my property with an AEGIS close-in-weapons system?

I think it's fairly obvious that most of those use cases are rediculous.

Taken to the other extreme, though, where nobody owns weapons of a modern sort, you eliminate quite a few pastimes and hobbies. I myself was considered a reasonably decent shot in my youth, and while I got sidelined by degenerating eyesight, the advent of better funding means that there's no reason I couldn't get prescription safety goggles and resume my weekend practice sessions. I don't have anything invested in my ability to own a firearm, though, and I wouldn't feel my rights were being particularly trampled if we suddenly went all United Kingdom and severely restricted ownership. People in more rural areas might disagree with me. There are still fairly large subsets of the Canadian population that hunt their sustenance.

SO I think the truth for this, as in most things, is probably somewhere in the grey. Thanks for reading.

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