Opinion Top of the Ticket

Do gun absolutists want the right to bear rocket launchers?

Gun owners truly have nothing to worry about. There are no federal commandos coming to break down their doors and take away their guns.

Sure, there is an outside chance that a universal gun registration system will be approved by Congress, but anything more, including -- and especially -- an assault weapons ban, will be scuttled by the House Republican caucus, if not by Democrats trying to win reelection in gun-friendly red states.

And yet, given the rhetoric of the National Rifle Assn. lobbyists and the noisy agitators in the conservative media complex, one would think that President Obama is planning the modern equivalent of the British march on Lexington to confiscate patriot firearms.

The usual case against gun control is being made, of course -- that it does not work and only burdens law-abiding gun owners, not criminals who, by definition, flout the law. But the loudest voices on the right are making a more strident argument. They are saying that the 2nd Amendment guarantee of a right to keep and bear arms is not concerned with hunting birds or shooting skeet or target practice at a gun range, it is about giving citizens the means to resist despots like King George III. In other words, it is about a civilian capacity to fight the forces of overbearing government.

Certainly, the fact that they had just concluded a people's war against a king was very much on the minds of those 18th century Americans who approved the 2nd Amendment. But what does that imply for Americans today?

The gun-rights absolutists insist that it means that ownership of weapons on par with those in the hands of government agents and the military is guaranteed by the Constitution. Therefore, assault weapons cannot be banned and that any attempt to do so would be unconstitutional and despotic.

That's why the rhetoric has gotten so heated, driving the most vociferous firearms fans to toy with the idea of armed revolt against "King Obama."

But, paranoid rants aside, the logical conclusion of the hyper conservatives' argument ends in a strange place. If the patriots of 1776 could match the redcoats with muskets and cannon, doesn’t the absolutist interpretation of the 2nd Amendment suggest that today’s "patriots" should be able to stand against a modern army? Doesn't it mean that citizens have a right to keep and bear, not just AR-15s, but rocket launchers, tanks, fighter jets and attack helicopters?

Most Americans would say that is preposterous, but I suspect there are more than a few who think that sounds like a great idea.

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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