Getting Real About Guns, Governments and the Defense of One’s Castle

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Well-secured private arsenals and that old WWII .45 that Grandpa kept in a locked tool case are not the problem.  Street gangs, armed drug dealers and loosely wrapped demonic nut cases carrying deadly weapons are.  And, yes, firearms are worse than clubs and knives, because they can project deadly force at a distance.  But that can come in handy if you are cowering in your bedroom and you happen have a pistol. {See my article about OAKLAND’s experience, at .}

Rifles and handguns that require the shooter to pull the trigger once for each shot are not “automatics” or “machine guns”, neither of which can lawfully be purchased by ordinary civilians.

Ammunition matters. Consider a simple .22, like the beginner’s target rifle that kids often used in small town America, under adult supervision. Such a weapon might kill a snake or squirrel, or break a window, but might not get through a heavy leather apron and certainly would  only irritate a bear. Yes, .22’s are dangerous, but no matter how you trick them out, or equip them with large magazines, they are just not military weapons.

A .223 firearm is an entirely different threat, even if it is tamely tricked out as a single shot varmint rifle for use on the ranch.  The .223 bullet is long, shaped like the high velocity, deep penetrating military round that it is. It may even penetrate some bullet-proof vests.  It travels far and delivers a deadly punch.  As a self-defense weapon in close urban quarters, it is overkill.  A .223 round might well go clean through the snarling brute on your doorstep, but it may also continue and take out the neighbor girl at her piano across the way.  A .45 revolver will stop any man, and stop with the man.

So I invite you to think of the shooting control policy issues as belonging to three general categories: (1) firearm zoning, based on population density; (2) firearm storage, especially enforcement and accountability for improper control of your weapons; (3) the imperative that law enforcement be able to  identify, track and disarm the truly dangerous among us.

Hunting is important because it is part of the right to pursue happiness that is guaranteed all law-abiding citizens. But self-defense is critical because it is at the very heart of all our other rights.  And self-defense necessarily includes access to the technology of self-protection, meaning access to weapons.

Consider the English Common Law as it stood in the 18th century. In Blackstone’s Commentaries the preeminent English legal scholar held that the law grants to the lawful inhabitant of a dwelling the right to kill the aggressor (say, in a burglary) because the law of England has made one’s  house, “a castle”, and it “will never suffer it to be violated with immunity…For this reason no doors can in general be broken open to execute any civil process.” The right extended to defense against those government agents who attempted to enter without a proper warrant. This became the foundation to the Fourth Amendment to the US constitution.

The Castle Doctrine, as it came to be known in the USA,  extends the principle to any place legally occupied, car, work-place, so that similar protections and rights extend, including the right to use force, even a firearm, to defend against an intruder.

The so-called “Make My Day” laws in many states were inspired by the Harry Callahan character played by Clint Eastwood in the 1983 classic film, Sudden Impact.  In California, for example, one can use a firearm against someone invading the home without too much fear of being second-guessed by our politically correct minders.

Federal law has long banned the private use of the truly destructive military technologies, bombs, grenade launchers, machine guns. And law enforcement at every level, with federal help, is properly tasked to keep all firearms out of the hands of convicted felons and dangerous mental patients. Anything that can be done to speed up background checks, make them more careful, intelligent, thorough, and widely enforced, will be efforts well spent. A recent headline here in California reveals that thousands of firearms are in the hands of known individuals whose possession is unlawful because they have disqualifying criminal records.  Yet I’m not reading about massive sweeps. Instead, I still see the grand gestures, like gun buyback programs from non-criminals. These are a diversion.

We need tough, realistic firearm storage laws, such that the responsible adult gun owner is held strictly accountable for the firearms he or she owns; has a duty to keep them locked in the presence of children and others who may improperly use them; and an absolute duty to immediately report when any firearm gets out of one’s control, with stiff criminal penalties for purposeful noncompliance or culpable negligence.

We also need to allow the states and the cities to zone firearms based on local conditions, while respecting private ownership and the right of every law abiding citizen to the defense of self and family. I can imagine, for example, an urban requirement that all private weapons using the military round .223 must be fully secured in unloaded condition at all times while within the designated zone; and that law enforcement must be promptly be informed when and how such weapons are transported in and out of the zone.  Ranchers keep the .223’s locked and loaded as they will.

I do not think that one’s firearms, lawfully owned and possessed at their acquisition, and still responsibly held, can ever properly be rendered illegal, ex post facto. To do so would present the gravest constitutional obstacles; and should never be undertaken.

It is a bedrock fact that honest Americans will remain as fully and privately armed as they choose.  I do not foresee any time in this century when private citizens can safely and reasonably rely on the government’s good offices for the exclusive defense of their homes, businesses and persons. When certain members of the political class and the elites, many of whom who enjoy armed private security, tell the rest of us that we don’t “need” X  or Q as a weapon, they are really suggesting something else entirely.  They are really saying that that we don’t need constitutional protections against their versions of what is best for us; in effect they are telling us that our total disarmament will never be exploited to our detriment.  They are either wholly ignorant of history, or are hoping that we are.

Ben Franklin said it clearly and for all time – “Those who surrender freedom for security will not have, nor do they deserve, either one.”

Copyright © 2013 by Jay B Gaskill, Attorney at Law

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