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Know the West

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-- i.e. breaks the laws regarding the use of such weapons -- then the right to bear that type of weapon can be rescinded, as can any other right as noted above.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