First of all, I'd like to commend all of the posters who have participated in this thread. This is one that had great potential to turn south and head into flame-war territory, and I'm glad to see that everyone has been civil.
Welcome to The Firing Line, NoGun! Now, on to your questions:
Originally Posted by NoGun
Why, with all the non-lethal self defense options out there today, do you still believe in the right to own modern (semi-automatic) firearms?
For starters, because the Second Amendment to the US Constitution says that I have a Right to Keep and Bear Arms. The term "arms" includes firearms. In fact, it includes "all arms that constitute bearable arms," according to SCOTUS.
Second, the Right to do something is not predicated on the Need to do it. The 2A is contained in the Bill of Rights, not the Bill of Needs. If you begin predicating rights on needs, you run into a whole host of issues. In addition to looking at the rights that an individual needs, we must also look at the rights that society needs for an individual to have. For example:
- Rosa Parks didn't need to sit in the front of the bus. She would have reached her destination just as quickly and just as effectively, had she sat in the back of the bus. She had a right to sit up front, though. Society needs for her to have that right, too.
- I, individually, have never needed to exercise my rights to: (a) be free from unreasonable searches and seizures; (b) be free from being compelled to testify against myself; and (c) to be free from cruel and unusual punishments. Nonetheless, society needs for every individual to have that right. (A4, A5 and A8, respectively). Without those three rights, police can go kick in a few doors without warrants and begin torturing whatever unfortunate sould happens to be home into confessing to crimes which they may or may not have committed.
- Do I, individually, need an AR-15? Probably not. At least, I hope I never have an honest-to-God need for it. Nonetheless, I would submit that society needs for me to have the right to have one. First, to defend my family. Second, to assist in the defense of my country if need be. Or maybe the other way around, and in particular, to defend my country against my own givernment, if necessary.
Third, I've heard the argument, in response to the defense-against-tyranny perspective, that it would be futile for the American citizenry to stand up against our own government. I'm not convinced that such is true, given a couple of factors. My seat-of-the-pants estimate (I'm afraid that I'm without sources on this one) is that there are some 100 million gun owners in the U.S. Michigan licensed some 600,000 hunters a couple of years ago. Presumably, hunters on the average own at least 1 gun each. A few hunters will borrow guns, and some will own more than one. Arkansas has another 130K Concealed Handgun Carry License holders. Most of them do own guns, I suspect, and many own more than one. Extrapolate that out to include all of the other States, throw in a few folks that will defect from the military if ordered to fire on American citizens (quite possibly taking equipment and arms with them), and it begins to look somewhat less far-fetched. Further, the American Revolution was not exactly a done deal. It was a hotly contested idea, whether we should declare independence against our own government, which was a European superpower at the time. Are our rights to be restricted based upon whether we are capable of succeeding at a particular goal?
Originally Posted by NoGun
While I understand the "Heller" decision and all that, the constitution was framed in a different time.
Yes, it was framed in a different time. I've heard it said that "the Second Amendment protects muskets." Muskets were the AR-15 of the day, though. The 2A protected those arms that were in use by the military at the time. The glib response to this is: "If the RKBA only protects muskets, then Freedom of Speech only protects screw-type printing presses." The Supreme Court is much more eloquent in addressing this issue in saying that:
Originally Posted by SCOTUS
Some have made the argument, bordering on the frivolous, that only those arms in existence in the 18th century are protected by the Second Amendment . We do not interpret constitutional rights that way. Just as the First Amendment protects modern forms of communications, e.g., Reno v. American Civil Liberties Union, 521 U. S. 844, 849 (1997) , and the Fourth Amendment applies to modern forms of search, e.g., Kyllo v. United States, 533 U. S. 27, 35–36 (2001) , the Second Amendment extends, prima facie,to all instruments that constitute bearable arms, even those that were not in existence at the time of the founding.
Finally, and while I'm sure I could go on for much further on the RKBA, the comparison to Tasers. Let me start with the caveat
that I'm not a techincal guru on Tasers. I'll give Tasers the benefit of the doubt on this and base my two assumptions on things I've read in this thread. Specifically, that: (a) there's a 3-shot Taser available; and (b) that the range is 35 feet. There really is no comparison to the effectiveness of a firearm. What if an active shooter is 36 feet from me? Even if my aim is dead on, there is zero chance that I'll hit the attacker. Second, multiple attackers: If there are 3 attackers inside 35 feet, my hit ratio has to be 100% under stress to stop them all. If you read very much about gunfights, you'll see that the stress, adrenaline and the fact that attackers are moving targets makes this extremely unlikely. If I miss one shot, I'm in deep doo-doo. Third, batteries. I can put a loaded revolver in my nightstand and leave it loaded for 15 years. Should I need it, I can reasonably expect it to go bang. If it doesn't, I can just pull the trigger again. Can I do that with a Taser? I don't know, but I have my doubts. (I also have some doubts about that 95% success ratio on Tasers, but that's a debate for another day.)