Randy Alcorn

What is there to say about the gun issue that hasnhttps://www.walmart.com/t already been said — repeatedly? I don’t know, but I have considered the arguments swirling around this issue and have found a lot of sophistry and emotion, but less common sense or compromise.

Examining it all as objectively and rationally as I always strive to do with any issue, here is what I have concluded so far.

The 2008 U.S. Supreme Court ruling in District of Columbia v. Heller that interpreted the Second Amendment to mean all citizens have the right to keep and bear firearms was a pragmatically cautious but correct interpretation.

It was pragmatically cautious because so much of the population already possesses firearms that reversing away such a long held perceived right would likely be unenforceable, and attempts to enforce it would risk massive civil disobedience — as with alcohol and drug prohibitions.

It was a correct interpretation because even though an objective reading of the amendment seems to make gun possession contingent on being a member of a “well-regulated militia,” the historical context in which it was written refutes that.

In 1789, many Americans needed a firearm for hunting and protection, especially those folks living on or near the frontier. So, whatever the Framers actually intended, the practicalities of the times overwhelmingly supported private gun ownership, which has been a commonly accepted right ever since.

Unless America passes a constitutional amendment repealing the Second Amendment, the nation is going to have private gun ownership.

But things have changed since 1789. The Second Amendment, when written, gave citizens the right to all the guns they wanted — when guns were muskets not machine guns. Today’s automatic and semi-automatic firearms with high-capacity magazines have the firepower of an entire company of musket-bearing militiamen.

Today, as we have seen again and again, one person can shoot down dozens of people in less than 30 seconds, inflicting devastating wounds with bullets designed to cause maximum damage. These firearms are variations of modern battlefield weapons, not squirrel guns.

Is it reasonable to allow such weapons to be included in private arsenals? Is it unconstitutional to prohibit it?

The rote arguments in favor of private ownership come from the gun-rights catechism.

The main argument is to deter government tyranny. OK, but even if a rogue U.S. government suspended the Constitution and managed to convince all the military branches to suppress resistance, citizens armed, even with machine guns, would be no match for the most powerful military in human history.

Yeah, there is the guerrilla warfare scenario, but consider the sophistication, capacity and effectiveness of the U.S. military. Good luck Spartacus — how many tanks and jet bombers do you have? Better to take up the ballot than the gun to preserve liberty.

Fending off foreign invasions? Well, any enemy invader would first have to overcome U.S. military might, which is greater than that of the next 10 or so of the world’s militaries combined. More realistically, a foreign enemy bent on bringing down the United States would not invade but attack from a far distance with nuclear or technological weapons.

Home protection? Just the sound of a pump shotgun racking a shell into its chamber can scare off intruders. Unless you are expecting a horde of assailants bursting into your home, you don’t need to keep a machine gun handy. A shotgun will do.

Personal protection? The good guy with a gun argument. Back to the old Wild West, but with machine guns?

Hunting? As a hunter in my youth, I recall that hunting laws restricted magazine capacity to four cartridges. While only a small percentage of Americans still hunts, no worthy hunter hunts with a machine gun. Do farmers, ranchers and folks living near wilderness really need machine guns to defend against wildlife predators?

Sport shooting? I used to shoot clays. It was a fun test of skill. I don’t recall anyone at the range ever using machine guns, but I appreciate that some folks like to shoot these weapons for sport. They like guns, and that is maybe the most honest rationale for private ownership of such weapons.

While liking guns doesn’t make one a bad person, the mostly uninfringed right to own them has enabled a bad situation for America. In the advanced world, mass shooting epidemics and extensive, recurrent gun violence is peculiar to America.

Mental illness, violent video games, single-parent families, the decline in religion, and just about anything else folks want to blame for gun violence — except guns — are not unique to America. What is, is the immense private arsenal of guns and the ease Americans have to add to that arsenal.

So, now we have parents outfitting their schoolchildren with bullet-proof backpacks. We have armed guards posted around churches and schools — maybe Walmarts next. Foreign nations warn their citizens about the risk of traveling in the United States. A motorcycle backfiring in New York City’s Times Square triggers widespread panic by people fearing another mass shooting is happening. Same at a shopping mall in West Valley, Va., where people, thinking bullets have been fired, panic at the loud crash of a falling sign.

Is all the death, injury and pervasive anxiety worth enduring just so some folks can have powerful firearms? Happiness may be a warm gun for some, but for many, warm guns bring agonizing misery.

Do something! That’s problematic, but possible.

The Supreme Court declined to hear cases involving the constitutionality of the 1994 semi-automatics and high-capacity magazines ban that expired in 2004, and has let stand the laws heavily regulating and virtually prohibiting automatic weapons.

Today’s Supreme Court, however, might rule against such gun regulations.

During the 10 years the 1994 law was in effect, deaths and injuries from mass shootings declined — less firepower, less carnage. These bans should be reinstated permanently, along with universal background checks and periodic licensing.

Such regulations wouldn’t eliminate mass murder but would be far more effective than thoughts and prayers in mitigating it.

— Randy Alcorn is a Santa Barbara political observer. Contact him at randyaalcorn@gmail.com, or click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are his own.