Saturday, October 3, 2015

The National Firearms Act of 1934 and gun culture today

(Franklin Roosevelt, 1932. Photo courtesy of the FDR Presidential Library and Museum.)

President Roosevelt signed the National Firearms Act of 1934 (NFA) on June 26, 1934. It was "the first federal gun control law" ("Franklin Roosevelt: The Father of Gun Control," New Republic, December 19, 2012). A major part of the law was a tax, but according to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, "the NFA had an underlying purpose unrelated to revenue collection. As the legislative history of the law discloses, its underlying purpose was to curtail, if not prohibit, transactions in [certain] firearms. Congress found these firearms to pose a significant crime problem because of their frequent use in crime, particularly the gangland crimes of that era such as the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre."

Today, of course, we can't have any more federal gun regulations. Too many people feel that the Second Amendment gives them the absolute freedom to have as many guns, as many rounds of ammunition, and as many pieces of body armor as they want. Many people feel that there should be no licensing of firearm owners, no registration of guns, and no background checks. Many people tell us that the only solution to mass shootings is for every citizen to be armed, at all times - the so-called "good-guy-with-a-gun-will-stop-the-bad-guy-with-a-gun" philosophy. In other words, a return to the mythical old west.

(In this 2014 campaign commercial, Joni Ernst fires a gun to show voters she's worthy of Congress. It worked, she's now a U.S. senator. It's become standard practice for all conservative politicians to fire weapons - to prove that their tough and ready to shoot someone. YouTube link:

Second Amendment absolutism makes utterly no sense. For example, should I be allowed to have an anti-aircraft gun in my front yard? If not...why not? The Second Amendment says I have the right to bear arms. An anti-aircraft gun is an arm. I have no intent of harming anyone. Maybe I just want one to protect the country, and my property, from foreign fighter jets or our own government gone rogue. What about a destroyer? Since I'm allowed to buy a boat, and I have the right to bear arms, I clearly should be allowed to have my own destroyer with guide missiles. I promise to be the good guy with the destroyer, and stop the bad guy with the destroyer

Some people will say, "You're being silly, the Founding Fathers never envisioned citizens having free access to anti-aircraft guns." But I would respond that they never envisioned private citizens stockpiling semi-automatic weapons, 500-round drum magazines, or body armor either. And they probably never envisioned people buying ammunition from the Internet like candy." And many gun right extremists really emphasize our need to be armed in case our government turns against us. So clearly this is further justification for allowing me to have an anti-aircraft gun and a destroyer. I mean, how else am I going to fight off a government-gone-bad? Let's be real here: I can't battle an F-16 with a shotgun. I need some serious equipment. A Gatling Gun at least!

(In this 2015 campaign commercial, a North Carolina political candidate fires a shotgun in an effort to get elected to Congress. YouTube link:

To be candid, I have several firearms - most passed down from older relatives. I like target shooting and I also like the personal defense thing. But if laws were passed requiring me to be licensed, or placing reasonable restrictions on the amount of ammunition I could purchase at one time, or requiring that the guns be recorded on some sort of new national registry, I would have no problem with it. Some people feel that such laws would be a slippery slope and would eventually lead to a confiscation of all private firearms. But you can say that about any law, e.g., "Forcing me to register and insure my car will lead to my car being confiscated." Under this paranoid philosophy, we should really have no laws at all. Is that what we want? Anarchy? The complete absence of law because any law could, hypothetically speaking, lead to a dangerous place?

Well, apparently with guns, the answer is yes - we want anarchy. Let each private citizen be his own rule-maker with guns. What could possibly go wrong? 

In the article I cited above--"Franklin Roosevelt: The Father of Gun Control"--the author discusses the inability of our country to institute new gun control legislation, but says "The Newtown massacre however may have changed all that." He was referring, of course, to the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, where 20 children and 6 adults were murdered by a single gunman. That was nearly three years ago, and we're no closer to common sense regulations than we were then. The recent mass shooting in Oregon, as well as many other mass shootings that have occurred since Newtown, unfortunately, won't make any difference either.

The gun industry, the gun lobby, and the people who want every citizen to be armed, won't stand for any restrictions on guns or ammunition. We could have a mass shooting of 700 people and it still wouldn't make a bit of difference. Too many people have decided that everyone should be armed to the teeth, ready to blast it out with the evildoers - and no effort should be made to disarm the evildoers because, "Hey, they'll just get guns illegally anyway!" And each mass shooting only strengthens their resolve to have more guns and more people armed. Mass shooting = more gun production to arm citizens = more weapons flooding the nation = more shootings = more guns needed to arm more citizens... and round and round we go. Make no mistake about it, it's cultural insanity. And it's definitely making some people who live in our secluded, gated communities (safely away from the carnage) very, very wealthy. And they love it - making us all gun-toting (and gun purchasing) "good guys" & "bad guys." 

(In this 2015 video, U.S. Senator Ted Cruz shows voters that he loves guns and can cook bacon on a barrel. Millions of Americans want Cruz to be our next president. YouTube link:

"More Americans have died from guns in the United States since 1968 than on battlefields of all the wars in American history."

-- Nicholas Kristof, New York Times, rated as "True" by Politifact, August 27, 2015

We need a New Deal for guns - a deal that restricts gun ownership to law-abiding citizens, and places reasonable limits on the amount of guns & ammunition one person can have. We also need to limit the amount of guns that gun manufacturers can produce - endless production will result in endless bloodbaths. We need better background checks, better technology (fingerprint-trigger technology), and better registries. These types of laws will not immediately keep guns out of the hands of criminals of course. It will take a long, long time for the laws to make a big difference, because the nation has been so lax on gun control for so many years - and has been flooded with so many weapons. But reasonable regulations now, will save lives years from now.

Outside of paranoia, Second Amendment extremism (distortion, really), and political campaign bribery, there is really no reason why we can't act more responsibly with our nation's weaponry.

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