Re: Guns [was Re: property Rights]

Ron Kean (
Thu, 27 May 1999 12:40:53 -0400

On Thu, 27 May 1999 04:09:12 +0100 "Craig Dibble" <> writes:

>2) Have you pro gun activists got any idea how completely mad you
>sound to
>non Americans?

The USA is one of the top gun-owning countries, but there are others which have as high or higher rates of gun ownership. Switzerland and Afghanistan, for instance, though those two countries could hardly be more different from each other. In Switzerland, target shooting is a popular sport, with a patriotic flavor. Most adult males (up to 50 years of age) are members of the militia and normally keep a military rifle at home. Switzerland claims that it can mobilize a 600,000 man force in 48 hours.

Traditionally, rural Afghanistan is heavily armed and rather lawless, something like the Wild West, though the Afghans possess a high sense of honor and hospitality. In the 1700s the Afghans would steal or capture muzzle-loading guns from the British, and make copies, right down to the insignia. There is a story, perhaps apocryphal, that some Afghans once stealthily looted a British armory, replacing the guns with copies, and the British were unaware of the switch.

In Russia, surprisingly, gun ownership is widespread today in rural areas, though I don't know if that was so during the most repressive years of communism.

>I'm probably going to provoke more rancid vitriol and get shot down
>flames for saying this, but just because something is written in your
>precious constitution or your bill of rights does not mean that it is
>the be
>all and end all, that it is simply the only thought worth entertaining
>no alternatives shall be brooked. If this were the case, can you
>explain to
>me exactly why there are so many, or indeed *any* amendments to your
>constitution? I can think of one answer to this: Because it is

Agreed that the US Constitution is imperfect, but if one were to try to write a 'perfect' constitution, it's perfection would be judged on how well it achieves its objectives. And different objectives would result in different constitutions. The Bill of Rights is the first 10 amendments, and those were negotiated as a package between the time that the constitution was first written (1787) and its adoption, the understanding being that the Bill of Rights would be addled soon after the constitution went into effect (1789). There were actually 12 amendments in the (1789) proposed Bill of Rights, two did not make it when the 10 amendments were adopted in 1791, although one of the two was ratified 202 years later in 1992, and it is now the 27th amendment.

>was a hashed up solution to the problems of the time and no clear
>was given to its long term consequences. As such, situations have
>which the constitution was never designed to contend with and it has
>had to
>be modified. It is in no way set in stone. Times change, and laws
>change with them.

This is true, up to a point, but the Constitution has proven to be quite durable. During the 200 or so years that the US Constitution has been in effect, the USA has arguably been more successful, by many measures, than most other countries. With the exception of the Civil War, the US track record of stability has rivalled that of the most stable countries during that time period.

To advocate extropian beliefs on the one hand, and
>dogmatic adherence to a quite clearly imperfect constitution on the
>hand seems somewhat at odds to me. But excuse me if I am stepping on
>constitutionally protected toes here, I mean no harm, I'm just curious
>as to
>how you can rationalize this.

It is not necessarily the case that supporters of gun rights base their support mainly on a dogmatic adherence to the Constitution. My impression is that pro-gun rights people believe in gun rights as a philosophical matter, and would believe just as strongly if gun ownership were not even mentioned in the Constitution. The fact that the Second Amendment exists is welcomed by pro-gun rights people, as it may provide a legal basis for arguing against gun control laws, but the Second Amendment is not the reason they believe as they do.

An interesting thing about the Constitution is how major provisions of the Constitution are seemingly ignored. The Second Amendment is an excellent example of this. The amendment states, in part, that 'the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.' But most large cities, and many states, have draconian gun control laws which would seem to be unconstitutional on their face. And the multi-million member NRA, a powerful pro-gun lobbying group, seems completely unable to get any gun control laws invalidated by the courts on constitutional grounds.

Ron Kean





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