What’s more, Fisticuffs Are Preferable to Packing Heat on the Floor of the State Legislature
BY BOB BROWN
Tension was high in Congress in the months before the Civil War when an observer wryly noted that the only members not carrying a pistol were carrying two pistols. Perhaps high tension explains why Montana State Senator Verdell Jackson (R-Kalispell) has introduced legislation to allow Montana lawmakers to carry concealed weapons on the floors of the state House and Senate.
Especially in that now is an angry time, is any useful purpose served by our lawmakers packing heat? As a way of punctuating a point of logic in spirited debate, couldn’t they get by with just a good old-fashioned punch in the nose?
I own eighteen handguns, rifles and shotguns. I’m a long-time dues paying member of the National Rifle Association. In recent years I’ve killed both deer and antelope. I grew up with guns, and I’m proudly steeped in the Montana gun culture. Furthermore, I believe the Second Amendment is in the Constitution to provide the last defense of a free people against a tyrannical government.
That said, I think there are limits. Either for self-defense or against a tyrannical government, why do we need or even want thirty-shot handguns? The extended clip makes such a weapon totally impractical for those with carry permits. Getting such a clumsy weapon out of the bedside drawer to stop an intruder in the middle of the night could be fatally cumbersome. And, if the government ever comes to get our guns I’ll be defending mine at gunpoint, but I sure won’t be doing it with a thirty shot pistol. Neither will anybody else who is serious about power and accuracy.
Firing many times in a hurry at close range is what semi automatic handguns do best. That is why they are favored by mass murderers. The casualty toll of twenty in the recent tragedy in Tucson would likely have been far higher if a bystander had not grabbed the shooter’s hand as he was reaching into his pocket to reload another thirty round clip. His rampage would have topped out at ten, however, if the killer had been limited to a standard ten shot capacity magazine.
Purists will argue that any infringement on firearms is unconstitutional. Legislation passed in the 2009 Montana legislature to test that interpretation is now in the federal courts. But, that aside, clips aren’t guns and so have no constitutional protection.
There are also those who will argue that it is better policy to keep firearms out of the hands of the criminally insane than to restrict firearm use for everybody. Certainly every effort should be made to accomplish that. The trouble is that criminals, even insane ones, will sometimes manage to get guns. But if extended clips aren’t available to them they will at least be limited in their mayhem.
And as far as everybody else is concerned, an armed citizen with a ten shot magazine, aiming carefully so not to harm others, could put a maniac down with a round or two, if necessary, before the arrival of the police.
Americans have the right to be armed, and that is why our freedom is more secure than that of others in other countries. While Congress certainly has more important things to do, like directly dealing with the national debt, it should still act to limit magazines for handguns to a maximum of ten rounds. I doubt that it will, but it should.
Democrats and Republicans in the Montana legislature won’t get more done at the point of a gun, but don’t be surprised if they make it legal to give it a try.
Bob Brown is a former Montana Secretary of State and State Senate President.