I just had a thought regarding the whole 2nd amendment issue that might put the whole matter into a new perspective. I doubt I'm the first to wonder this, but here's my question:
Would the issue of using private firearms for personal defense even have occurred to the Founding Fathers at all?
I'm no expert on firearms (far from it), but a black powder, muzzling loading smoothbore pistol does not seem to be a very suitable weapon for the purpose of personal protection against robbery or burglary. It is a single-shot weapon, with a maximum effective range less than 10 meters (at the classic ten pacs, most duels ended in a draw, neither party hitting the other), and which cannot safely be kept loaded for an extended period of time. Reloading took at least eight seconds, even for an expert, in which time any opponent within range could have closed the distance and begun attacking hand-to-hand. They were also expensive, more than a long musket was because of the difficulties of making a weapon that size which wouldn't rupture when fired.
While nearly everyone would have had a long musket (more or less equal to the military muskets of the day - indeed, many were military issue, purchased from the Army for serving compulsory militia duty), at least on the frontier, pistols would have been a rarity. The ones most likely to carry them at all would be military officers (to defend themselves against their own troops - the original purpose of the pistola, IIRC) or highwaymen (who usually carried a brace of them preloaded). Eventhen, they would only have had them loaded if they were expecting to need them.
They were, in other words, weapons which required a certain amount of premeditation to use. Carrying one for defense would be an exercise in futility: if you were attacked, you wouldn't have time to use it, and even if you did, chances are you'd miss at anything but point blank range.
Actually, the same is true to day, even with modern guns. I once read that most gunfights involve between thrity and fifty rounds for every one that hits anyone. As for protecting against being mugged, well, my friend Stefan was recently mugged, and the first indication he had of it was when he was hit from behind; the only thing he had time to do was to smash his cell phone on the ground, where he ended up himself a fraction of a second later. Now, Stefan is a fairly good martial artist, and usually very alert, yet he had no opportunity to defend himself against three teens whom he would have mopped the floor up with had he been prepared. If he'd had a gun, he wouldn't have had a chance to draw it - he might as well have just given the weapon to his attackers.
The entire issue of guns for self defense is false fire: in the real world, the winner of a fight is usually the one who attacks first. Despite the old joke about bringing a knife to a gunfight, if an attacker can close with a knife - or even his fists - before you can respond, then you might as well no be carrying a gun at all. The only way it could make a difference is if you were carrying it openly enough to intimidate a possible attacker out of attacking in the first place.
OK, perhaps I'm wrong in this. I'd love to hear alternate arguments on this point. I personally am neutral on the matter, as I think that the issue exists primarily to allow politicians to gauge how the citizery is reacting to them, but IME most of the arguments put forth for (and against) them aren't very well thought out. Indeed, my whole argument comes down to this: that the issue is a pretty much pointless to argue over, since the impact of firearms on society is, taken as a whole, negligible. Mst of the crimes which are committed with firearms would have been committed without them; most of the accidents which occur with firearms are no more or less likely than other equally lethal accidents. Even the military argument is pretty much moot, as there is now a vast gap between military hardware and private weapons - no insurrection against the established authority (no matter how deserved it might be by the current administration and all of it's predecessors of the past fifty years) is going to succeed using civilian weapons, if at all. Let's find something more productive to argue about, mmmmkay?
Do You Believe That?™
Last edited by Schol-R-LEA on Fri Oct 27, 2006 10:23 am, edited 1 time in total.