Monday, January 7, 2013

Marine Joshua Boston on Gun Ban: Unconstitutional Laws aren't Laws

The atrocity at Sandy Hook caused much discussion about what the United States Congress and/or the President can do about gun violence in this country. There has been a lot of talk about Senator Dianne Feinstein's proposed assault weapons ban, Vice-President Biden's task force on guns and President Obama's hints about assault weapons bans or other possible actions that he can take without Congressional approval. As you might imagine almost none of these ideas have gone over very well with people with expansive or as they would term it strict constitutional views on gun rights. One man who is getting some attention for speaking out against such possible gun control legislation is (former) Marine and Afghanistan Veteran Joshua Boston, who recently responded online at CNN to Senator Dianne Feinstein's proposed assault weapons ban legislation
in pretty much the same manner as King Leonidas responded to a Persian demand to throw down his weapons all those centuries ago. His letter in full is just below:

Senator Dianne Feinstein,
I will not register my weapons should this bill be passed, as I do not believe it is the government's right to know what I own. Nor do I think it prudent to tell you what I own so that it may be taken from me by a group of people who enjoy armed protection yet decry me having the same a crime. You ma'am have overstepped a line that is not your domain. I am a Marine Corps Veteran of 8 years, and I will not have some woman who proclaims the evil of an inanimate object, yet carries one, tell me I may not have one. 
I am not your subject. I am the man who keeps you free. I am not your servant. I am the person whom you serve. I am not your peasant. I am the flesh and blood of America. I am the man who fought for my country. I am the man who learned. I am an American. You will not tell me that I must register my semi-automatic AR-15 because of the actions of some evil man.
I will not be disarmed to suit the fear that has been established by the media and your misinformation campaign against the American public. We, the people, deserve better than you. 
Respectfully Submitted,
Joshua Boston Cpl, United States Marine Corps 2004-2012

This letter quickly went viral. It summed up succinctly and some would say ominously the issues faced as the US struggles with the problems posed by gun violence. In order to further illuminate his stance Cpl. Boston was recently interviewed. He reiterated his viewpoint and gave a little more insight into where he was coming from regarding the right to keep and bear arms.  He didn't take anything back.


As you can see these beliefs are fervently held. One person can be written off as a kook or gun nut. But if Boston is just the tip of the spear so to speak, this could mean that any legislation, even if passed, won't have the desired impact, just as the previous ban did not. After all rifles are used for a very very small portion of murders. Check out the 2011 numbers for handguns or for other weapons used.

Let's dive a little deeper and use a quick analogy to see if we can understand where Boston and people like him might be coming from. Since 1973 there has been a right to have an abortion. Millions of people consider that fundamentally settled law and don't much care to hear the other side's objections. If there ever were a Supreme Court that would overturn Roe v. Wade and/or a President and Senate that would appoint justices who would do such a thing, I expect that roughly 50-55% of the country would have a serious problem with any new anti-abortion laws that proliferated. In fact I think that millions of people would simply and proudly refuse to abide by such laws, viewing them as unjust and unconstitutional. Period. I do not see any scenario in which the heads of NOW or NARAL would simply say "Well the law's the law" and agree to accept it.

Well you may not agree with the analogy but I think that is pretty close to how many gun rights people view Feinstein's proposed legislation. You are never going to get them on board because in their view owning a weapon is a fundamental constitutional right. Unlike abortion, there is a specific amendment which supports their POV. Giving that up is simply not an option. Feinstein's proposed legislation wouldn't just ban the future sale or importation of "assault weapons" however those might be defined. It would also require anyone with a grandfathered weapon (various semi-automatic handguns, rifles and shotguns) to register them under the National Firearms Act. This is the same law under which machine guns are handled. So according to Feinstein, owning a semi-automatic weapon means that the government could and should treat you exactly the same as if you own a machine gun. That is you should be on a national list and agree that the BATF and/or other agencies could stop by your home at any time with or without warrant to inspect your weapons and insure that you are abiding by every single law which applies. You wouldn't be able to transfer this weapon without governmental permission. Any violation could result in fines, criminal charges and/or confiscation. There are also extra fees and other restrictions but I think you get the idea. It would be a massive expansion of governmental control over legally acquired handguns. It would have the over night potential of turning millions of gun owners into criminals. Obviously this is the proverbial camel nose under the tent. 

So Feinstein's legislation could be dead on arrival. It certainly won't get much (any??) Republican support in the House. If passed, we know of at least one person who would ignore it. And I imagine there are several others. Here however there are valid and important competing claims to the cries of defiance and "Come get them" emanating from some gun owners. In a republic, aren't we often obligated to obey laws that we don't like? Isn't that the whole point of civil society? Isn't the military sworn to uphold the law and the Constitution? If people feel free to ignore laws they don't like how can we possibly have a functioning society? Who the bleep does Boston think he is? If Feinstein's law passes will overfed weekend warriors really have the guts to stand up and tell the US government to stick it where the sun don't shine? Regulating guns is not the same as banning them, after all.

I don't have the answers to those questions. All I can say is that obedience to the law is not always or even necessarily the highest moral good. A country that can't seem to find and remove 11-20 million illegal immigrants is a country that will not be able to nationally register, track or ban upwards of 200 million semi-automatic weapons. We do need to have a national conversation on access to guns. We also need to talk about many other things. But having that conversation with senators and mayors who have already shown their contempt for the Fourth and Fifth Amendments doesn't make me think they will show any more respect for the Second. I think that many gun rights advocates will be getting in touch with their inner Thoreau.

It is not desirable to cultivate a respect for the law so much as for the right. 
If the machine of government is of such a nature that it requires you to be the agent of injustice to another, then, I say, break the law
-Henry David Thoreau


Was Boston showing contempt for his oath of enlistment? 

Do you support an updated and improved Federal Assault Weapons Ban?

Do you think a Ban will pass?

Can you ever justify breaking the law? If so, when and how?

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