What’s the penalty for “shooting under the influence ”

  I have one very small quibble with Ed Quillen's article "Cold Dead Fingers" (HCN, 4/28/08). Mr. Quillen seems to conflate "rights" and "responsibilities" in saying: "Owning a gun is more than a right; it is also a responsibility. ..." (I have trouble thinking how a right can be something more than a right in this sense. It seems to me that if something is a right, then it's a right, nothing more nor less, and that's an end of it.) While rights and responsibilities are certainly linked, they are also certainly distinct. We have a number of rights, each of which entails usually several responsibilities. And any right can be abrogated if we fail to fulfill the attendant responsibilities. For example, our right to drive an automobile can be taken away if we fail to respect the traffic laws, and our right to liberty can be taken away if we fail to respect the laws concerning certain kinds of criminal behavior.

Why can we not treat the right to bear arms in the same way we treat the right to drive a car? Register the gun as we register the automobile (with make, model, serial number, etc.), require appropriate education, the passing of a proficiency examination to get a license for it, and perhaps insurance of some form. Make it all subject to renewal every five years or so, require appropriate documentation when ownership changes hands, and so on. And if one fails to fulfill the appropriate responsibilities -- i.e. breaks the laws regarding the use of such weapons -- then the right to bear that type of weapon can be rescinded, as can any other right as noted above. We already do all of this with automobiles, trucks, airplanes, motorcycles, boats, certain kinds of tools, and certain kinds of professions: doctors, lawyers, contractors, even barbers and hairdressers. Why not with weapons?

Michael Stroup
Waimanalo, Hawaii
Jun 30, 2008 11:18 AM

Owning a firearm is a right, guaranteed by the Constitution.  Driving a car is a privelege.  Therein lies the difference. 

Shall we have anyone writing anything, whether it be an email, an old fashioned letter, a letter to the editor, a magazine article, or book obtain a license?  How about commentators?  Shall we require everyone who wishes to exercise their first amendment rights to get registered, have a license, get permits each time they wish to exercise the rights of speech, undergo training, get proficiency in the craft of speech, and require insurance on every instance of speech?  I think not.

I love the West, and I'm an avid environmentalist... and I own firearms. 

Jul 07, 2008 11:33 AM

I think whoever owns a gun Should be required to do a hell of a lot more than what is done now. As someone who had a loaded 357 pointed at their head by a drunken husband (thank god he's been an ex for the last 18 years) and hear the gun go click when he pulled the trigger, then have the telephone receiver shot out of my hand when I called 911, there is no amount of crap said by the right-wingers and neo-cons that will ever change my opinion that there are way too many idiots out there who own guns. Especially when he only received a 30 day sentence to be served only on weekends and could be let out on those days the electricity went out (he was a lineman), even though the cops heard him say he was going to kill me. There are far too many killed by those who supposedly are not criminals and I for one am sick and tired of this wanna-be cowboy mentality. And yes, this did occur in Wyoming!