Gun Advocates: Owning a Weapon is a Civil Right

Those who support gun ownership rights say recent proposals to restrict weapons are misguided and unconstitutional. What do you think?

Editor's note: This article, on the reaction of advocates of gun rights to calls for guns controls, is one of many that Patch continues to publish on the gun control debate. Though a single article may reflect one view more than another, our cumulative coverage is intended to provide balanced treatment that reflects all views in the debate. We have included links at the bottom of the article to a sampling of articles and views about the issue.

To gun rights advocates, the debate since the Connecticut school shooting is more than just a battle over who gets to own what kind of weapons.

It's a fight over freedom, misinformation and society's right to protect itself, they say.

"Once you start regulating and banning weapons, you start going down a slippery slope," said Marc Greendorder, a San Ramon Valley attorney and gun owner.

Patch talked to an array of gun rights advocates this past week. Here's what they think in general about some of the recent gun control proposals.

They oppose California's current assault weapons ban and are against any kind of national prohibition on such weapons.

They aren't opposed to background checks, but they also aren't comfortable with a national database of gun owners.

They don't necessarily oppose a 10-day waiting period if it's only for the initial purchase of guns and not subsequent purchases by the same person.

They reject the notion the Second Amendment of the Constitution is outdated, saying the nation still needs to have armed citizenry.

"The AR-15 is the modern day equivalent of the musket," said Brandon Combs, executive director of the Calguns Foundation.

Guns and ammunition are serious business in California. Combs said there are close to 20,000 gun sale transactions on average day in California.

Since the gun control debate reignited after the Dec. 14 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, Combs said gun sales in California have tripled.

The spike is being drive, gun advocates say, by people's fear that certain weapons will soon be banned by the government.

"Whenever a serious conversation about gun control starts, the market will respond," said Combs.

The talk is quite serious among the nation's politicians.

Vice President Joe Biden is scheduled to unveil his commission's recommendation on new gun laws on Tuesday, with universal background checks being a top priority.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein plans to introduce a bill this month prohibiting the sale and manufacture of military-style assault weapons.

House members, including Rep. Eric Swalwell of Dublin, plan to sponsor a bill that would ban high-capacity ammunition magazines.

State Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner of Berkeley introduced legislation last week that would regulate the sale of ammunition in California.

Gun rights advocates view these proposals as dangerous infringements. They feel there are other ways to reduce gun violence in our country.

Gun restrictions

On a basic level, gun advocates object to restrictions because they believe it violates the Second Amendment's guarantee for citizens to "bear arms."

"I don't understand why we can have restrictions on weapons when we have the consitutional right to own weapons," said Greendorfer.

He added he isn't opposed to restrictions on certain individuals such as convicted felons, but he feels the Second Amendment prohibits the ban of any classification of weapon.

Greendorfer, who is a hunter as well as gun collector, said there are personal reasons for his views. He is a first generation American whose unarmed ancestors were dragged out of their homes in Czechoslovakia in the 1930s by armed Nazi soldiers.

"To me, it's not so much an argument about rights. It's a reaction to what happened in World War Two," he said.

Michael Baryla, the owner of Tracy Rifle and Pistol, said citizens owning an array of weapons is the best way for society to reduce gun violence.

"It's having your destiny in your own hands," said Baryla. "Having rifles in the hands of citizens is a protection for the public. There is no correlation between tougher gun laws and a reduction in crime."

His sentiments are echoed by Jay Jacobson, the president of Franklin Armory, a gun manufacturer in Mountain View.

He said if weapons are taken away from citizens then "we have a situation where only the bad guys have guns."

"In all these shootings, the incident stopped when another person with a gun showed up," Jacobson said.

Advocates also reject claims that individuals do not need guns that fire rapidly and fire more than six shots.

First, they say the word assault weapons is a "catch all" phrase used to categorize rifles that aren't really much more powerful than standard hunting rifles.

Second, they believe there are times when you need the ability for rapid and multiple fire. Combs said if a gun owner is faced with an angry intruder or a powerful animal such as a mountain lion, they want to be able to get off more than one round.

"The number one thing is you want the ability to have a follow-up shot," he said.

Combs acknowledges weapons such as machine guns and bazookas are rightfully restricted. He believes the criteria should be what weapons are commonly used and are necessary for personal self-defense.

Waiting periods, background checks

Gun advocates don't object in general to background checks of gun buyers to make sure they aren't ex-felons or have documented mental health issues.

They also don't mind a waiting period of three or 10 days for someone who is buying their first weapon.

What does bother them is waiting periods for people who are making subsequent purchases of guns or ammunition.

Jacobson said a waiting period for someone who has also already passed initial checks is a waste of time.

"That doesn't make sense," he said. "It's asinine."

Baryla agrees.

"I don't think it does anything to curb violence," he said. "It's just a restriction on commerce."

Baryla does oppose a national database of gun owners. He feels it's an invasion of privacy. He notes data can be misused as in the case of a website that has printed the names of licensed gun owners in New York City.

Jacobson prefers the current system where law enforcement agencies can ask gun manufacturers and sellers for information if they are tracing a specific weapon.

"There are other ways for the government to get what they need," he said.

Greendorfer is less adamant than the others. He thinks waiting periods are "pointless," but he doesn't have major objections to them.

He also is in favor of a national database of gun owners and believes the federal level is the best place to oversee it. 

National debate

Gun advocates are concerned by the current national debate on gun control.

They feel there is a lot of misinformation about weapons and a lot of emotional rhetoric.

"It bothers me a lot," said Greendorfer. "If there's an intelligent debate, I'm all for it."

They say they want the public to remember the overall picture and the fundamental issues at stake.

They point to Nazi Germany, the Soviet Union under Joseph Stalin and Communist China under Mao Tse-tung as examples.

"The people are the militia. There is still a need to keep the government in check," said Baryla. "Guns are the first thing to go when a government wants to control people."


Links on the gun control debate:




Jon Spangler February 04, 2013 at 09:20 PM
Advocates of unrestricted gun ownership forget that owning or doing most things takes a certain amount of screening and qualification. Owning and driving cars is perfectly legal but it comes with some simple requirements: knowing how to drive--as shown by possessing a valid driver's license, vehicle registration and licensing, buying fuel, paying taxes, and buying liability and medical insurance, for example. Getting married requires a blood test and proof of ID. Going to school and registering to vote require filling out registration forms. Why all the fuss over requiring basic screening and registration for guns? (I own one, BTW.) Simple background checks and gun registration seem like smart basic steps to require prior to the purchase of a lethal weapon. Banning military-style guns that kill far too many people all at once is a no-brainer, too. (Just like we ban the personal use of rocket launchers, hand grenades, and tanks for private, personal use. Duh...)
Dover February 04, 2013 at 10:01 PM
That's an excellent point and a completely appropriate comparison, Jon, especially in light of one of the more obscure Constitutional Amendments which reads "the right of the people to keep and drive vehicles shall not be infringed." Banning vehicles that kill far too many people all at once is a no-brainer, too. Duh.... http://www.cnn.com/2013/02/04/us/california-bus-crash/?hpt=hp_inthenews http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-18563_162-20042515.html BAN BUSES!
Tim Starr February 04, 2013 at 10:11 PM
You don't need a background check to buy a car, nor a license to drive a car on your own property. Nor do you need to register it to have it on your own property except in tyrannical hellholes like New Jersey. Car ownership is not a fundamental civil right per the U.S. Constitution. Nor is the insurance requirement universal in all states - New Hampshire doesn't require car insurance. Nor are there any federal laws mandating driver's licensing. Nor are blood tests required for marriage any more in many states - when I got married in CA in 2005, I didn't have to take a blood test. Background checks for gun purchases have never proven to reduce crime. Neither has gun registration. That's why "all the fuss." Gun-haters typically lie & claim to actually be gun-owners or hunters to build a false sense of rappor with their enemies. Given your high level of ignorance on the topic, I say you're a liar. However, many other things are or can also be lethal weapons. Do you advocate background checks and registration for knife purchases? If not, why not? You're also wrong about explosives and tanks, too. You can buy binary explosives via mail-order that are just as powerful as grenades, and tanks are perfectly legal to own privately; private companies own them and rent them out to Hollywood film companies for movies. You can even own a full-auto anti-aircraft gun in most states.
Cynthia February 04, 2013 at 10:20 PM
"Given your high level of ignorance on the topic, I say you're a liar." Hot damn, I love me some ad-hominem informal fallacies. "You don't need a background check to buy a car, nor a license to drive a car on your own property." You *do* need to fill out forms in order to transfer registration of a car to another owner, and need to fill out forms if you buy a car and will not drive it.
Tim Starr February 05, 2013 at 12:18 AM
Still waiting for some evidence that any gun restrictions advocated here will actually do anything except violate the rights of innocents. How hard could it possibly be to come up with some, if there was any? Transferring a car involves a change of title, not registration. Again, you don't have to register cars you don't drive on public property. Nor is there any pretense that car registration is some sort of step taken to prevent crime or car accidents. It's purely for revenue purposes. Per the Supreme Court, having a gun for self-defense is a fundamental constitutional right. If you like taxing fundamental constitutional rights, then how 'bout we restore the poll tax for voting? Background checks? ID checks? Literacy tests have a lot of precedent, too. Are you in favor of all of those? Surely you don't want ignorant people who can't even read, may not be who they say they are, and may even be convicted felons voting, do you? After all, voters select the one who has his finger on the nuclear trigger. Surely you don't want less restrictions on who has the power to launch nukes than you do on who gets to buy a .22 pistol, do you?


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