Valentines & Shootings
There are two things "they" say one should never discuss while on a first date: (1) politics and (2) religion. I always make it a point, even on Valentine's Day, to discuss both... assuming we make it to topic 2. These topics can reveal irreconcilable differences, so best to get these out of the way early, no?
In politics, those engaged rarely hold passionate and considered views of every issue; rather most have a few issues they invest in, with some — or one — being decisive. I figure, given yet another mass shooting today, why not discuss an issue revealing irreconcilable differences? The issue of firearm regulation — when expressing support for regulation, the supporting side often just shrug, for it is the decisive voting issue of few. Yet supporter of regulation is blasphemous to the opposing side, as it is the deciding issue for many. Playing it safe is for the pros — so here goes...
San Francisco Regulation Efforts
In 2005, The Board of Supervisors
placed onto the ballot a ban on handguns and the manufacture, distribution, sale and transfer of all firearms and ammunition within the City. It went to the voters as Proposition H
and passed with 58% of the vote. I opposed this measure on grounds that it would be costly to defend and, ultimately, never to be upheld in court. This eventually happened. Every court rejected the measure almost effortlessly, while taxpayers had to pay for costs both for defending the measure and to compensate those who sued to recover their costs, among them a $380,000 settlement San Francisco taxpayers paid to the National Rifle Association
. That our tax money went to the NRA chaps me to this day.
That was 2005. In 2008, the US Supreme Court, in the Heller decision
, ruled that the Second Amendment guarantees an individual's right to possess a firearm unconnected with service in a militia, specifically identifying handguns. While I consider this decision driven more by ideology, thus folly and misguided, it is the law of the land. So any proposed ban like that of 2005 will get nowhere faster than before.
The point here is that the City has tried to ban firearms, and it was a poorly considered and costly effort. I also disagree with that goal — among other reasons, because banning all firearms in this nation is a non-starter. This is largely because of how a majority of Americans interpret the Second Amendment (an interpretation I happen to reject) along with our culture of firearms.
There is one thought that has been kicking around the bowels of my brain for some time, and the shooting today in Florida brings it back up. While I am not running on this as an issue, and have no plans to make it so, I am no lawyer, so earnest consultation is needed if ever I were to consider developing my thought into a proposal. My discussing this here is intended more as a window for voters into how I think about things... before talking with experts.
More than half of all firearms in this country are owned by some three per cent of the population. Most firearm owners do not own the so-called "assault style" firearms — the go-to weapons system for mass shooters. I grew up with firearms and am not principally opposed to them, however, I do reject the common view of the Second Amendment, and also strongly feel more weapons systems should be included on the list of arms unavailable for civilian ownership. Adding a weapons system to the list does not itself infringe on any rights, given this nation already has a long list of arms unavailable for civilian ownership. That said, to get to my thought, I must first articulate my view of the Second Amendment.
The Second Amendment
As noted above, the most common view regarding the Second Amendment is something I reject; that citizens may keep and bear arms to help keep their government in check — essentially as a threat. Some have proposed to me that it being the second
amendment means it is really important. I scoff here because when the Bill of Rights was proposed, there were twelve amendments, but the first two failed to achieve ratification leading the third proposed amendment being ratified as the First Amendment and the fourth proposed amendment ratified as the Second Amendment. Further, the Constitution is not like how many choose to observe religious texts, where one picks and chooses which parts to believe and live by, and which to ignore. Rather, it is an all or nothing document — no part is more or less important than another, and thus the order of amendments is irrelevant.
Article I (powers of congress) gives congress the power to call forth the militia to suppress insurrection and repel invasion. This is important, especially at the time. While this nation was still governed under the Articles of Confederation
, there was an insurrection in Massachusetts (Shays' Rebellion
). Massachusetts couldn't handle it, appealing to the confederate government for help. Yet that government lacked authority to compel other states to dispatch their militia to help Massachusetts. Shortly after, the Constitutional Convention
was held, leading to a new, strong federal government replacing the weak confederate government. The Founders had Shays' recent insurrection well in their mind when drafting Article I.
In his first term as president, George Washington
faced another insurrection (the Whiskey Rebellion
). This time, the new national government held federal power, marshaled the militias of the several states to meet the insurrection, with Washington himself becoming the first and so far only sitting president to lead an army on a field. I note all this because it makes little sense that our constitution would give citizens the right to keep and bear arms to use against their government — which is, by definition, insurrection — while providing that same government power to call forth militia to put down the insurrection it otherwise should be protecting. Given the Constitution equates insurrection with foreign invasion, insurrection clearly is not a constitutional act. Once we reject the notion that citizens may keep firearms for the purpose of an unconstitutional act — using them against their own government — then any argument of the need for firearms reduces to self-defense, sport, bravado, and fun.
I will further note that the Second Amendment is written in the context of a well-regulated militia. The aforementioned Heller decision changed that — one of the reasons I think it a poor ruling (the oft-derided act of legislating from the bench). Regardless, California has a well-regulated militia — the all-volunteer California State Military Reserve
, an active militia that serves as our state defense force. There is also a state navy. None of this is the National Guard, and the federal government has no authority over it. If not for the 2008 Heller decision, I could have tried making an argument that none really should have any firearm whatsoever on grounds they are not in California's well-regulated militia. That could have been fun!
Forgetting there is a Second Amendment, San Francisco attempted to ban all firearms. I wonder, however, if rather than any ban, a targeted statement of intent, some kind of resolution perhaps, targeted well enough, may inspire the state to expand firearm regulations? Immediately challenged, perhaps such an effort reaches the Supreme Court, allowing them to earnestly consider where the line is drawn regarding firearms for civilian ownership? My thinking leads me to a revolutionary weapons system developed by Nazi Germany in 1943.
Maschinenpistole model 1943
The German aim was to consolidate the myriad weapons of the infantry into one. At the time, a squad had riflemen, firing bolt-action rifled rounds with deadly accuracy, at range. They were supplemented with sub-machine gunners firing pistol rounds in bursts, great for suppressive fire though terrible at range and lacking knock-down power. They were further supported by a machine gun crew, firing a barrage of rifled rounds at range for suppressive effect. The problem here is a logistics and quartermaster's nightmare; lots of different firearms, caliber ammo, and parts, to be distributed to a mobile army in the field. Worse is that bolt-action rifles are terrible in urban combat and on-the-run shooting; something the Germans were facing with more regularity. The innovation of putting all these variant squad armaments into a single, select-fire weapons system came with the Maschinenpistole model 1943
. This firearm uses a caliber between the sub-machine gun and the rifle — so a bit of range loss but more than sufficient. Soldiers could select single shot (like a rifle), or three-round burst (like a sub-machine gun), or fully automatic (like a machine gun). This meant one weapons system for everyone in a squad, supplied with the same ammunition and parts. The Germans were getting into dire straits and, facing hordes of Russians from the East, needing a game changer. This was it.
Perfected in 1944, it was finally presented to the German leader, Adolf Hitler. Loving it, but not its name, he christened it the Sturmgewehr
(model 1944). These went into action, but too late to turn the tide of the war for Germany. This weapons system, like the rest of German technology, was captured by the Allies and Russians. We, the Americans, translated the crates they were found in; Sturmgewehr — where "sturm" is "assault" and "gewehr" is "rifle". Thus the "Assault Rifle" was born in the Western world. Every assault rifle since has been based on this German wonder weapon. Driving the point, each time someone says "assault rifle" they are literally quoting Hitler. The Russians, for their part, used the inspiration of the Sturmgewehr as the basis for the Avtomat Kalashnikova model 1947, commonly known as the AK-47. The Sturmgewehr is the granddaddy of all modern assault and so-called "assault-style" firearms. The "assault-style" is generally a civilian variant that does not have the select-fire options, and certainly not the fully automatic option, though it can be modified, such as with a bump-stock, as seen on Las Vegas, or converted if one were truly committed.
Ban the Sturmgewehr?
The City is a democratic laboratory for the state and the nation. Banning firearms, as the City has learned, is a fool's errand. However, could the City pass a resolution asking the state to ban all derivative weapons systems inspired by the Sturmgewehr? That would thus be all firearms that one may plausibly consider an "assault-style" firearm. It means none need debate what firearms may fall under this category; there is no AK-47 or M16 without the Sturmgewehr, thus no AR-15 or Bushmaster 223. Such a proposal ties all modern "assault style" weapons directly — accurately — to Nazi Germany and Hitler; a politically salient point to make.
The government can and does regulate what arms are available for civilian ownership, and the Supreme Court has thus far only addressed handguns. As noted, lots of consultation with legal scholars would be needed to turn thoughts into proposals, but if the City were to promote such an approach, could it inspire Sacramento to amend the law? Could it find itself before the Supreme Court, forcing them to decide whether the offspring of Hitler's wonder weapon should be in the hands of any who may want it, to... hunt with? When a hunting rifle is more than sufficient (and, for that purpose, far better)? Recall, there is no reason or need to be armed to any parity for the purpose of fighting the police or Army. Parity will never happen anyway, given the Army has tanks and field artillery, among other arms civilians cannot own. Joining derivatives of the Sturmgewehr with 50-caliber machine guns and field artillery does not infringe any perceived rights; handguns, shotguns, rifles — they are not affected — all are more than suitable for self-defense, sport, and fun (though admittedly bravado may take a hit). Such a resolution is not an attempt to ban all firearms; it is not even a law — just a suggestion for Sacramento to consider. The proposal is, however, specific and clearly and unambiguously defines the weapons system to be banned, and one the Supreme Court has yet to consider.
The power of groups like the National Rifle Association come from the zealotry of their supporters. Single-issue voters who go all in to oppose anyone who dares propose even the most modest of regulations. By their standards, my thoughts here are radical, given they twisted in knots on whether to budge on banning the cheap and easy-to-make bump-stock accessory employed by the gunman in Las Vegas to modify his "assault style" firearms. Even having such thoughts and making them public is enough to lose this voting bloc. I lose them despite not actually having a proposal, nor running on this as a campaign issue, nor promising any action if elected. Given my personal Facebook feed, I know there are plenty of such voters here in San Francisco. Regardless, I present this mostly as a window into my thinking on a topical issue, and if there were popular support for a ban, how I might approach the issue from the Board... plus the lede topic if on a Valentine's date this evening.
The one thing I do know: Sturmgewehr-inspired weapons systems are used in nearly every mass shooting. These shootings are now common, as are the wimpy responses of "thoughts and prayers" coupled with no substantive actions of any kind. We choose either to live with avoidable mass shootings, or make some attempt to address them. One way that might help is banning Hitler's gun.