Obama will ration handgun purchases (with update 9-iv-08)

According to Paul Helmke, writing in The Huffington Post, Senator Barack Obama —

supports limiting handgun purchases to one per month

I suppose that this will cook the goose of his presidential campaign:  the notoriously powerful gun lobby in the United States won't put up with that sort of left-wing commie authoritarian extremism, even without John Wayne and now Charlton Heston to bang the drum for them. 

Up-date (9 April 08):  The following comment by Tony H, and my appreciative response to it, put this in a quite different light:

Brian,

This has, I think, nowt to do with preventing individuals from buying their weapons. After all, Obama's next Primary is Pennsylvania, where gun ownership is off the radar.
 It's all to do with trying to prevent gun smuggling and preventing guns getting in the hands of criminals…really.
Remember this is the States!
In the 1990's New York  "firearms dealers", who were unable to buy wholesale quantities simply drove down to Virginia, filled up their cars with guns..helped by local citizens…..and drove back to NY to flog the things on the streets.
South Carolina enacted a "one gun per month" law and smuggling ended overnight.
There's a stub here on WikI

t

Brian writes:  Ah!  Mystery solved: thanks, Tony.  And apologies to the good if diminutive Senator.

Brian 

15 Responses

  1. Barbara says:

    I’m afraid you’re right, Brian, the gun lobby’s more important than preacher’s sermons or race.  Remember that Gore even lost his home state over this issue.  It’s such a tragic statement about America…

    Barbara, NYC

  2. Ronnie says:

    Is one per month serial or cumulative?  There is something of mediaeval theological disputation about such statements.   One tries to carve out a distinct position without departing too far from the general, divine truth.  Perhaps we do the same.

    Brian writes:  As you may remember, Ronnie, what I know about mediaeval theology can be writ large on the back of a confession by Blair that the Iraq war was a criminal blunder, but it seems to me clear that under President Obama Americans would be allowed to buy a maximum of 12 handguns a year (11 of which I suppose they would sell at a profit to collectors or heads of large families, taking advantage of the high prices resulting from the scarcity caused by the 1-gun-a-month ration).  Or could the Huffington Post story be an April Fool's spoof? 

  3. Tim Weakley says:

    The one-line news items raises more questions.  Presumably the ration is for private citizens, since a dealer needs to buy more than one gun a month from a manufacturer and sell it in order to make a living.  But does it apply only to purchases from dealers, or to purchases from friends and neighbours also?  And may one do swaps?  A gun a month for the 57 adult years from 18 to 75 comes to 684 – seems an awful lot!  Consider that with an eight-shot automatic in each hand and two more tucked into the waistband of the trousers, even a lousy shot like myself could seriously  inconvenience the average burglar or footpad.  Who needs more?

  4. Tony H says:

    Brian,

    This has, I think, nowt to do with preventing individuals from buying their weapons. After all, Obama's next Primary is Pennsylvania, where gun ownership is off the radar.
     It's all to do with trying to prevent gun smuggling and preventing guns getting in the hands of criminals…really.
    Remember this is the States!
    In the 1990's New York  "firearms dealers", who were unable to buy wholesale quantities simply drove down to Virginia, filled up their cars with guns..helped by local citizens…..and drove back to NY to flog the things on the streets.
    South Carolina enacted a "one gun per month" law and smuggling ended overnight.
    There's a stub here on WikI
    t

    Brian writes:  Ah!  Mystery solved: thanks, Tony.  And apologies to the good if diminutive Senator.  (I have added this comment and my acknowledgement of it to the original post as an up-date.)

  5. Carl Lundquist/LA says:

    I suppose someone should represent the American gun nut here, so I shall try to fulfill the role of the Devil.

    Every firearm sold in the USA must be registered with the federal government by a federal firearms license (FFL) holder.   The transaction cannot be consumated and the firearm delivered until the feds bless the sale and the eligibility of the buyer.   All sales must be in person.  No sales can be made contrary to state law.   Those gun 'dealers' in NYC were in violation of federal law which is enforced by the notably heavy handed BATF (Bu. of Alcohol, Tobaccco, and Firearms).

    This applies to both hand guns and long arms — rifle and shotguns.  It does not apply to antique arms, air guns, or muzzle loaders.   Unless you have a FFL yourself as a dealer, gunsmith,  or collector you must buy firearms from a dealer in the state in which you reside, unless your states laws are followed by the dealer. 

    Brian writes:  Carl, thanks: I confess that I hadn't been aware that in the US gun sales and ownership were so tightly controlled — under federal, not state, law, too.  But if controls are that tight, how is it that gun ownership is so common in the US (parts of it, anyway) and that the monthly weirdo who turns up at some huge school in the mid-west and slaughters half of the pupils and most of the teaching staff seems to be equipped with enough weaponry to guarantee victory for the US First Cavalry Division?  (Not that we in the UK are in any position to throw stones: handguns are actually banned here, but teenagers in our inner cities seem perfectly well able to use each other for pistol shooting target practice, with predictably lethal results.)

    BTW, I don't quite understand your final qualifying clause ("unless your states laws…").  Has something got left out here? 

  6. Carl Lundquist/LA says:

    The states exercise great control over the purchase and use of firearms    For instance AZ permits the pocession and use of federally licensed fully automatic firearms — ie machine guns.  CA otoh absolutely forbids them except to police and federal officers.   34 states will issue permits for the concealed carry of pistols on a "shall issue" basis.   Mass. absolutely forbids possession.

    Ownership is common in the US because it as always been common.  In fact, it is more common percentage-wise in the states with lowest crime rates.  There is a constitutional amendment, no. 2, that states, "…the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed".  Tho it does not necessarily limit states, many states replicate that provision in their constitutions.  We are a continental country with many thinly populated and wild areas.   Hunting is a widely practiced sport, not the reserve of toffs as in some countries.   Places like Alaska actually have dangerous wild animals and even the fishermen tend to heavy pistols and rifles.

    Yes, I do notice that in Europe, that firearms are seemingly widely available only for criminals and terrorists, as are explosives.

    BTW, I don’t quite understand your final qualifying clause ("unless your states laws…").  Has something got left out here? 

    Yes, an apostrophe along with decent syntax.  What I should have written was:

      " Unless you have a FFL yourself as a dealer, gunsmith,  or collector you must buy firearms from a dealer in the state in which you reside, unless your own state’s laws can be followed by the out of state  dealer. "

    Re slaughters by crazed gun freaks:   Given our size and population, it a rare occurance, and certainly not a monthly one.  More like once every several years.  In the Virginia case, the perpetrator had a history of confinement for mental disease and was thus an illegal purchaser — somebody futzed up the background check at the state or federal level.

     

       

  7. Tim Weakley says:

    Carl Lindquist’s comments are interesting but raise further queries as to the exact interpretation of the Second Amendment. I pose them not out of malice but as one who loves the USA, has for 44 years been married to a US citizen, and has spent in total twenty happy years in Boston and Oregon. Here is the amendment in full:

    United States Constitution, Amendments, Article II:

    ‘A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed’ [original punctuation; taken from Morison, Commager, and Leuchtenburg, ‘A Concise History of the American Republic’].

    (i) When the Founding Fathers wrote ‘State’, did they use the word in its British sense of ‘nation’, or did they (as I suppose) mean ‘one of the constituents of the Union’? In the latter case, were they asserting the right of, say, Massachusetts to defend itself against Federal tyranny or encroachment?

    (ii) The part about a Militia seems to have exercised constitutional lawyers for over two centuries. To my naive mind, the Fathers’ line of thought was: ‘We haven’t a peacetime standing army, nor would we trust one. But we need some form of defence against external aggression, so let the people keep the guns already in their possession so that we can quickly raise a militia in time of need’. This was, of course, in the days when hunting rifles had similar range and penetrating power to the British Brown Bess, and when a resolute set of guerrillas could wreak havoc with regular, slowly-manoeuvering troops.

    But no provision for militia training, you notice, or requirement that the individual states have effective militias. Nor any restriction on who has arms: nothing about keeping them out of the hands of lunatics and known criminals, nor about allowing machine-guns for Arizonans but not for their neighbours in California, or about gun-dealers notifying the state police or the Feds of sales. Meanwhile the United States has one of the largest standing armies in the world and certainly the most expensive, and there no longer appear to be any state militias.

    So, who constitute the militia? Not the National Guard, clearly. I have read lawyerly assertions to the effect that the whole body of gun-owners constitutes a sort of militia-in-waiting or latent militia. But anyone with the slightest experience of armies, including former reluctant conscripts like Brian and myself, knows that any effective body of troops needs to be raised, recruited, equipped, trained, disciplined, and led: it doesn’t just ‘happen’ when needed. Meanwhile, presumably, when a tyrant seizes power in Washington (with the approval of the armed services?) the citizenry are to proceed with their handguns and hunting rifles to the state border nearest to D.C. and prepare to engage Federal tanks and gunships.  Have I got it all wrong?

    Brian writes:  A purely common-sense modern reading of this much disputed text would surely interpret it as meaning roughly:  "Since any free country needs a well organised territorial army, its people [or even 'its members'?] must have the untrammelled right to be armed" — with the implication that this right is purely in the context of the need for a territorial army (army reserve?  National Guard?).  In other words, and unlike Tim above, I would take "a free State" to refer to the whole nation, not to each component state of the United States; and the right to have and bear arms to apply to members of an organised ("well regulated") army reserve of civilians trained to be called up for military service in an emergency, not to any old Tom, Dick or Harry, still less a Harriet, who fancies himself or herself as a tough hombre with a gatt or a modern Calamity Jane.  So I agree with the implication of Tim's comment that with the advent of the permanent standing army, the Second Amendment has become obsolete and otiose.  It might be appropriate for Switzerland, but surely for nowhere else.   However, such a common-sense interpretation, which takes no account of the entire libraries of learned writings and judicial decisions devoted to deconstruction of these mere 27 words, has no claim to be taken seriously.  Perhaps Carl can enlighten us further?

  8. Carl Lundquist/LA says:

    When the framers used "state" in the Consitution it is everywhere referring to the several states.  Remember a US state is NOT a province.  It is a partially sovereign state which has ceded some of its power to the federal government.   Read the 9 and 10 amendments to get the flavor of that.

    Congress defined the militia in 1796 by statute.   It was, and essentially still is, all the male citizens of military age — then 18 to 45.   The National Guard is what used to be called a "special militia".   In fact, the Guard is really an organized reserve of the Army of the US.  The actual Reserves are specialist outfits.  The combat reserve is the Guard and is called up by unit.

    The USA depended on militias right up to the Civil War.   The Revolution would have been lost without them as undependable as they usually were.  Militias were sucessfully used at Bunker Hill, Saratoga, Cowpens, and Kings Mountain.  The guerilla war of the Carolinas were fought by militia under commanders like Francis Marion.

    Is militia obsolete in terms of today's standing armies?  Well you might want to ask that question of your soldiers returning from Basra and southern Iraq.   The Iraqi Army took 3 weeks to destroy.  The Iraqi militias are still at it, five years later?

    Brian writes:  Once again, thanks to Carl for some definitive definitions (if that's not a tautology).  But the implication is surely that the Second Amendment right applies only to a situation in which all male citizens of military age are members of a "well regulated" militia, presumably trained and equipped — not only with weapons — in advance of being called up in an emergency and ready to fight.  Since no such militia now exists, it seems far-fetched to argue that all Americans of any age and gender have the right to bear arms in their capacity as militia members, but without accepting any of the obligations associated with militia membership, such as weapon and other training, duty to obey a summons to military action at short notice, and limitations of age, physical fitness, availability in respect of occupation and family circumstances, and perhaps gender, necessary for a well regulated militia.  Anyway, the militia envisaged in the Second Amendment no longer exists, so the rights that once flowed from it must have been extinguished also, or so common sense would seem to suggest.  No militia, no right to bear arms: right?  (But no doubt all these common-sense arguments have been demolished long ago by the pundits and the gun lobby.)

  9. Carl Lundquist/LA says:

    But Brian, as I said, the militia is defined by statute. (1792 is the correct date btw.)   Moreover, the militia clause is a whereas clause not an operative clause.  The operative clause follows and it is framed as a right of the people, not of the states.  Interpreting the right as the right of the people to join the army is beyond fatuous.  Furthermore the cultural precedent is overwhelming.  The people of the USA have kept and borne arms for some 3 centuries now, and still do in large numbers. 

    The 2nd Amendment is a part of the fundamental law of the USA and it is one of our Bill of Rights.   The way to cut thru the argument is, of course, to repeal or amend the amendment.  That would settle the matter at once.  Of course it would be the first of our bill of rights to be so repealed.  There are those who would say it would not be the last.   After all due process and a the need for search warrants is a major inconvenience for our governments, no?

     

     

     

  10. Tim Weakley says:

    But Carl, no one is seriously suggesting that the Second Amendment, interpreted in a modern context, merely confers on the citizenry the right to join the army, or that the Bill of Rights should be tinkered with and emasculated.  I’m sorry, but the very fact that we are having this debate means that the interpretation of the Second Amendment is flexible and that people read into it what they want to read.  What I would like to see – and I suspect a large number of Americans would also – is a rewriting and clarification of the Second Amendment (even if it takes a thousand words instead of twenty-seven, and five pages of footnotes to boot) so that everyone knows what rights regarding arms are conferred on whom, and by whom, and for what purpose; and in what circumstances these rights may be exercised or withdrawn, and by whom.  In particular, is there to be a standing militia in each state so that it’s there when needed, and if so is it to be raised and organised by the state or by private citizenry (the latter might be necessary if the state rather than the Federal government were to be the cause of discontent); or is an effective militia expected to arise spontaneously when the crisis (whatever that proves to be) arrives?  See my remark on organization, etc., earlier in this thread. 

    When the Crunch comes – an economic collapse, a breakdown of central authority – it may be that militias will be raised in the USA by persons whose patriotism is exceeded only by their noble-mindedness and humanitarian character; but I doubt it.  Recent experience around the world – West Africa, Somalia, Iraq, Afghanistan, and the wreck of Yugoslavia – suggests that in actuality so-called militias are private armies existing for the aggrandizement of their leaders, for payting off scores, for ethnic or sectarian domination, for extortion and drug-trafficking, or of course for any combination of the above.  Warlords and their followers, in other words.  Away with them!

    You did not respond to Brian’s point that at present gun-bearing Americans are enjoying the rights attendant on membership of a (hypothetical) militia, but are not performing the associated duties such as actually getting on parade and enduring military training against the day when their services are urgently needed.. 

    A good point about the British army and the Basra militias.  But note that guerilla-type action is only effective if the military play more or less by the rules.  If, for example, the Waffen SS had occupied Basra the city would by now be rubble and its inhabitants all dead.

  11. Carl Lundquist/LA says:

    But Carl, no one is seriously suggesting that the Second Amendment, interpreted in a modern context, merely confers on the citizenry the right to join the army,

    Actually I have heard exactly that argument being made:  the 2nd merely confirms the right to join the National Guard.

    or that the Bill of Rights should be tinkered with and emasculated. 

    Which statement usually precedes exactly that.  <g>

    You did not respond to Brian’s point that at present gun-bearing Americans are enjoying the rights attendant on membership of a (hypothetical) militia, but are not performing the associated duties such as actually getting on parade and enduring military training against the day when their services are urgently needed.. 

    Sorry, I thought I did.  The right is inherent not to a militia: if it were, the Framers would have said so.  It is inherent in the people.   It is currently regulated in terms of what and where, generally by the feds and in detail by the states.   It is appropriate that it be so.   Carrying a 44 magnum in a shoulder holster is thoroughly inappropriate on Boston Common, but damn good sense in Alaskan grizzly bear country.    City folk tend to forget and certainly never internalize that we are still a country with great, empty and wild places.   There are counties the size of New England states that are patrolled by a handful of sheriff deputies.  I have know plenty of small towns with just one or two cops and the next town 60 miles away.  We are not England, or even New England. 

    In my city, LA, I have seen militia work.   In the riots of 1992, the LAPD abdicated the streets especially in the Korean areas under attack by looters.  The Korean shopkeepers armed themselves and organized to defend their stores.  This is exactly what colonial and pioneer militias did in the times of Washington and Jefferson and was Congress's model for militia.

    Brian writes:  Carl, I understand the case for allowing Americans in all sorts of different environments and circumstances to carry guns and I am conscious of the traditions of hunting with guns as well as of the need sometimes for guns in self-defence, where circumstances in most parts of western Europe are totally different.  But we're not basically discussing that:  we're discussing the appropriate interpretation of the Second Amendment:

    'A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.’

    I don't think you can divorce the first 13 words from the rest of the sentence in quite the way you seem to be trying to do.  The right to keep and bear arms seems to me incontrovertibly linked to the 'necessary' existence of a militia, whose purpose is the security of a free State — not the right of the people to go deer-hunting, shoot grizzly bears before they clasp you to their furry bosoms, or deter burglars by putting a few rounds from a machine-gun into their heads.  It might (or might not) be desirable to allow people to do all these things, and to own guns in order to do them, but I can't see that it's anything to do with the Second Amendment.  The reason for the Second Amendment right is plainly the need for a people's militia, and the reason for needing a militia is the security of a free State.  You'd expect arms for militia purposes to be owned and issued by the state, probably locked up when not in use by the militia in one of those huge fortress-like Armouries you see in US cities; you'd think the arms would be used for weapon training and periodic training camps and exercises, and made available only to persons of military age and condition.  The quite different interpretation foisted on the United States by the gun lobby seems hopelessly far-fetched compared with the Second Amendment's words, but they get away with it because of the arguments about deer-hunting and defence against bears and burglars which have no obvious connection with the Second Amendment.  Traditional American frontiersmen machismo just might have something to do with it, too: inside every red-blooded American there's a John Wayne trying to get out.

    That's how this simple-minded limey sees it, anyhow — a limey who has been intensively trained to fire rifles, revolvers, Bren guns and Sten guns, mortars, and charming little 77mm tank guns, but who is glad that neither he nor his neighbours enjoy the 'right' to own or use any of them in my cosy, or cozy, little country. (I was quite a good shot, too!)

    PS I know that the Swiss traditionally keep their militia rifles in the fireplace (heaven knows why there!) ready for instant mobilisation to repel — um — the Italians? the Germans?  the French? — but you'll remember that the Swiss had 500 years of democracy and peace, and what did that produce? The cuckoo clock. So long, Holly. 

  12. Carl Lundquist/LA says:

    Ah weel Brian, it would seem that our definitions of militia sail right by each other.   Jimmy Madison had his in mind when he and his fellows negotiated that amendment into our bill of rights.   However, we do have a case at hand in front of the Supremes that should nail some of this argument down.  The case involves the prohibition of the possession of firearms in one's domicile in Washington DC.  In this case nio state is involved, Washington DC is a federal district outside of any state.  Thus the case cuts thru the 'whereas' clause about states and militias and goes to the heart of the matter.

    It will be interesting.

    By the way, the Swiss that peace and democracy for 500 years is a fine product all in itself, one that few other European countries can claim — present company not excepted.   Surely the cuckoo clocks and those fine Swiss Army knives are merely the garnish on the deal.   BTW the list of repelees does include the French, the Burgundians, the Germans, and particularly, the Austrians in the form of the Hapsburgs. 

    Brian writes:  The Supreme Court judgment should indeed be interesting, although since this is the court that appointed GW to the Presidency, perhaps we shouldn't expect too much.  I'm sure, incidentally, that you will have recognised my comment on the Swiss and cuckoo clocks as having been quoted from your brilliant countryman Orson Welles, inserted into my brilliant countryman Graham Greene's screenplay for The Third Man and wonderfully spoken by Welles.  They don't make 'em like that any more.  Oh, perhaps they do.

  13. Tony H says:

    Brian,

    So long Holly…..I love the  complete quote from the Third Man (I’m not sure it was in Greene’s novel)
    "Don’t be so gloomy. After all it’s not that awful. Like the fella says, in Italy for 30 years under the Borgias they had warfare, terror, murder, and bloodshed, but they produced Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, and the Renaissance. In Switzerland they had brotherly love – they had 500 years of democracy and peace, and what did that produce? The cuckoo clock. So l………….!
    t

  14. Peter Harvey says:

    Whether or not it's in the novel, Greene wrote the screenplay for the film – which is why it's so good though the ending was changed. And Switzerland's history was not a 500-year idyll of of peace and democracy. And do they really keep their rifles in the fireplace? What happens when they light the fire?

    Brian writes:  I think it's well established that the whole passage was written — or even perhaps improvised on camera — by Orson Welles.  Of course if it's in the original novel that would torpedo the Welles legend, but I'm pretty sure it's not.

    Peter Harvey has added:  Brian, you are quite right. I remembered that after I had posted my comment. And I wasn’t going to get up at four o’clock in the morning to post a correction!

  15. Carl Lundquist/LA says:

    In re: Swiss Army rifles in the fireplace.  Saw a documentary on the subject of Swiss UMT and ready reserves.   The rifle in question, a fully automatic, select fire rifle together with 200 rounds of ammunition in magazines is kept in closets.   Logical.  I mean have you ever tried to get even a small rifle into a fireplace?   Unless your hearth is baronial in extent, it ain't gonna happen.   Besides, first sergants tend to go ballistic over soot covered rifles at inspection.

    Brian writes:  Thanks once again, Carl.  But now see this , including the following pertinent extracts: 

    Despite the vehement protests from many of Switzerland’s cantons (states), the lower chamber of the nation’s Federal Assembly voted to strip its citizens of gun rights, not by registering or confiscating firearms, but by outlawing the storing of ammunition in the homes of the citizens…
    Having failed at attempts to take the guns themselves from homes and store them in government facilities, the new law takes aim at ammo rather than the guns. The Swiss are still allowed to possess firearms; they simply will not be allowed to possess the ammunition to use them. This is the backdoor method of disarming citizens, and it is very effective. The ban also applies to the male citizens who make up Switzerland’s time-honored citizens’ militia. Even they will be required to keep their ammo at approved government facilities. The fact that a Leftist minority group was able to convince a majority of representatives in the Swiss Federal Assembly to approve the measure is considered a major victory for Socialism and the push to strip individual citizens of the right to keep and bear arms. In a stunning example of what Leftists can do when citizens are not paying attention, the Socialist ban on ammunition in the homes of the Swiss people should be a stark lesson for U.S. citizens who wish to preserve the right to keep and bear arms. Anti-gun groups do not have to register or confiscate firearms to win the battle…  Having your service weapon hanging above the fireplace, you take extra care in cleaning and maintaining it; indeed, Swiss target rifles were finished in bright polished steel as blueing would cast a slur on the owner, suggesting that he was too lazy to keep it properly cleaned and oiled!  [Emphasis added.]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *