Thursday, January 24, 2013

Walkin' in a Splintered Gun-derland pt. 2: Definitions

    I'd like to deviate from my traditional block of text, and just bring you all some simple definitions, a glossary if you will, for terms related to debates over firearm legislation in America. I will define each term and briefly outline how it relates to this virulent debate.

Civil rights: A class of rights that deal with the protection of an individual's freedom from infringement by government or private parties to ensure ability to participate in the civil and political life of a state without discrimination or repression (see below for definitions of discrimination and repression). Gun policies do not interfere in any way with personal ability to participate in the civil and political affairs, and therefore, by definition, the right to bear arms is not a civil right.

Constitutional Amendment: A formal change to the text of a written constitution of a nation. By definition, the right to bear arms was not even part of the original U.S. Constitution, it was added in as an amendment after the bulk of the Constitution was written. It was not the foundation of the country, or the basis of our constitution. Amendments can also be used to change other amendments, without the whole Constitution being ignored, disrespected or thrown out (example: the 18th amendment banned alcohol and the 21st amendment reinstated alcohol's legality).

Discrimination:  The prejudicial or distinguishing treatment of an individual based on age, ethnicity, gender, national origin, sexual orientation, religion or skin color or other personal characteristics. Gun enthusiasts often claim discrimination with regard to gun control, and the claim does not fall in line with the definition of the word. Guns are not an ethnicity, a gender, a sexual orientation, or anything else. Material goods are not subject to discrimination.

District of Columbia V. Heller: A 2008 court case that ruled that per the Second Amendment, guns are legal for private citizens to own, separate from a militia, and to use for traditionally lawful activity such as personal defense in a home is also protected. In short, guns are legal under the Second Amendment. They are still subject to regulation, and as such, the regulations currently in place have proven to be unsatisfactory and ineffective. We can absolutely change those regulations, but understand that per this court case, private citizens are not in danger of a gun ban.

Domino effect: A chain-reaction of events, where one small change leads to another similar change which leads to another similar change and so on, in a linear sequence. In relation to gun control, it is the belief that if gun laws become more strict, it will lead to more regulation, and more regulation, up to a complete ban, followed by suspension of the Constitution and martial law. This is not how everyone in support of guns thinks, but it is what a small percentage of them believe. It is based on assumptions and fear, rather than on any fact. If a law is passed to bring about gun restrictions, then subsequent laws also must pass on their own merit. Just because a majority agrees that one bit of legislation should be adopted, there will always be ample opportunity to vote down the next bit of legislation. If we lose the ability as a country to vote down things we disagree with, the problem will infinitely more serious than gun control.

Gun control: Any law, policy, practice, or proposal designed to restrict or limit possession, production, importation, shipment, sale, and/ or use of guns by private citizens. It is an extremely broad definition, and as such, it is impossible to determine if gun control is good or bad other than with a case-by-case, referendum-by-referendum, or bill-by-bill basis. Additionally, I would like to point out the words "limit" and "restrict" from the definition, both of which can be used to different degrees, rather than simply 'legal' or 'illegal.' Gun control does not have to be black-and-white, it can be conditional.

Repression: The persecution of an individual or group for political reasons, particularly for the purpose of restricting or preventing their ability to take part in the political life of a society. Freedoms of speech and expression still hold sway, and if any legislation is passed to control guns further, anyone would be free to make their choice of protest and work toward it being repealed. No repression of any person is being proposed in any way, with respect to firearm laws or anything else.

     These are not my definitions, but their interpretations with regard to firearm legislation are my own. Even if you disagree with me editorializing, I have done my best to present the definitions themselves as objectively as possible. Even if you completely disregard my personal spin on things, try to keep the true definition in your mind the next time you think guns are a civil right or that this country was founded primarily on the right to bear arms, or that a ban on all guns forever will be sure to follow any new gun control laws.