Ban The Bullets, Not The Guns

THERE IS NO CONSTITUTIONAL GUARANTEE THAT PROTECTS THE RIGHT TO PURCHASE, OWN OR MANUFACTURE AMMUNITION.

Instead of attempting to ban guns, ban ammunition. Instead of trying to outlaw automatic weapons, make it illegal to purchase, own or manufacture ammunition, and outlaw the private ownership of reloading equipment.

(Full disclosure:  I am a gun owner. At one point in my life, I owned around seventy firearms, most of which I never fired. I almost never leave the house without a firearm on my person. I have been in three potential shooting incidents in which the possession of a firearm probably saved my life…but I have never actually fired a gun at another person. It was the mere possession of a firearm that saved my life. On one of those occasions, the gun wasn’t even loaded.)

Guns, you see, are simply very expensive paperweights if you don’t have any ammunition to feed them with.

 The Constitution of the United States does not equivocate: A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

A lot of nonsense has been, is being, and will be written about the Second Amendment. Many reformers deliberately misconstrue the meaning of the Second Amendment at the time that it was originally written to suggest that the “well regulatied militia” was the entity to which the right to keep and bear arms was delegated when the syntax unequivocally grants that right to “the people.”

Some revisionists make the claim that only the members of a “well regulated militia” were entitled by the Second Amendment to keep and bear arms…but, according to the U.S. Code, every adult male under the age of 65 was automatically included in the unregulated militia and was required to keep a musket or rifle and at least 60 rounds of ammunition on hand.

There was an important reason for this protection: In 1788, the former British colonies, then organized under the Articles of Confederation, did not have a standing army. There were 700 troops drawn from various militias, most of them Revolutionary War veterans,  who stood guard over the national Armory at West Point…but the Confederation did not have a standing army of its own.

It doesn’t make much sense, today, to maintain the fiction that we are still reliant upon a citizen militia…until you consider the fact that many of the soldiers we have sent into recent conflicts have been from Reserve units, the modern equivalent of a well regulated militia.

But arguing against the Second Amendment is a Sisyphean futility. Attempting to chip away at Second Amendment protections with state-by-state regulation will result in a checkerboard pattern of contradictory gun laws that will be stricken down, 0ne after another, by the fascist contingent in control of the Supreme Court of the United States as violations of the equal protection clause.

But there is no Constitutional guarantee for the right to keep and bear ammunition, and therefore no reason that challenges to well-formulated ammunition restriction laws to ever reach the Supreme Court.

Of course, getting ammunition restriction laws onto the books will be an arduous task in and of itself…but ammunition suppression doesn’t have to face off against the emotional fanaticism of the gun owners of America, of which number I am one.

Attempts to suppress ammunition manufacture, distribution, sales, and ownership will also drive a wedge between gun fanatics and their more conservative (in the traditional sense of the word) members of the reloading community, who tend to be less doctrinaire about gun laws.

Around 11.6% of the nation’s shooters reload their own ammunition…and I don’t know of a single case in which a mass shooting has been traced back to a reloader. Gang bangers don’t reload their own ammunition. Mob guys don’t roll their own. Terrorists don’t reload their own ammunition. Lunatics don’t reload their own ammo.

How can you tell if a shooter is a reloader?

Reloaders pick up their brass after a shooting session at the range. Hunters who load their own pick up their brass out in the field. The only other shooters who pick up their brass are professional assassins, a vanishingly small number of shooters.

 You need expensive equipment, extensive knowledge, surgical manual dexterity, and replicable precision to reload your own ammunition. Most reloaders are perfectionists. Criminals are rarely perfectionists.

A consumer-grade reloading setup will run you around a thousand dollars for the equipment alone. Professional grade setups can cost as much as $5,000…but the single biggest expense for a reloader is learning how to reload. A certified course of study in reloading will run you more than $500 just for the classroom work.

Nevertheless, the existence of commercially available reloading equipment, materials, and supplies, along with the training required to avoid blowing yourself up, offers one vital defense against opposition to ammunition restriction: the ability to reload your own ammunition would contradict attacks on ammunition control legislation by providing a defense against claims of restraint of trade.

There are two historical analogies to be made here.

The Revolutionary War began when British troops descended on Lexington and Concord in an attempt to confiscate the powder and shot that were supposed to be stored there, so the triggering event that ignited the revolutionary was an attempt to restrict access to ammunition.

During Prohibition, recognizing that some communities needed wine for ceremonial purposes (or poorly disguised desires to drink),  the Volstead Act allowed “heads of households” to make and consume up to 200 gallons of wine per year, which averaged out to two bottles of wine per day.  From 1917 to 1925, wine consumption in the United States more than doubled from 70 million gallons per year to 150 million, an increase that was clearly due to Prohibition itself because it was easier to make wine at home than it was to make whiskey or beer. West Coast vintners even produced bricks of compressed grapes that could be easily turned into wine for shipment back to the populous but grape-starved East Coast.

By virtue of this analysis, one could readily assume that, if ammunition is either outlawed or tightly regulated, more people would turn to reloading…but reloaders need empty shell casings to reload. Regulate those, and reloaders would be crippled. No one makes their own brass. The equipment to do that is massive and costs at least a hundred grand.

In 2006, according to a New York Times survey reported by the Giffords Law Center, 73% of those surveyed supported background checks for ammunition purchases, and 64% supported the imposition of limitations on ammunition purchases.

Neither background checks nor ammunition limitations will be effective at reducing gun violence. People use legally purchased firearms to commit crimes all the time after passing background checks, and unless there are limitations on the ownership of ammunition, restrictions on purchases are meaningless. Besides, it only takes one bullet to kill another person.

There will always be a need for firearms and ammunition because millions of Americans supplement their diets by hunting. For others, hunting is a basic part of their culture, and some people live in parts of this country where the native fauna can easily kill an unarmed human. While some people may consider eating meat unhealthy and may think hunting barbaric, hunting is far less barbaric than the manner in which factory farms produce our proteins, and the meat is actually much better for you than the stuff you buy at your local supermarket.

It is perfectly possible, however,  to take down any game you are likely to come across in North America with a single shot muzzle-loading black powder rifle, just like the founders of this nation used to do.  Sure, it takes more skill to wield a black powder firearm….but those were the kinds of firearms that the Founders were thinking about when they voted the Second Amendment into law, the kind that won the Revolutionary War.

In point of fact, there are no black powder firearms on the market that are capable of firing more than six rounds before reloading and even the fastest black powder loading systems require at least twenty seconds to swap out a loaded cylinder for an empty one, a feature that is only available on a very small number of black powder firearms.

The continued existence of black powder firearms is the third element in the political equation that answers objections that we are disarming the American people by restricting access to ammunition. Anyone – even a convicted felon – who wants to buy a black powder firearm can do so right now, through the mail, because black powder firearms are not subject to federal regulation.  You don’t even need a concealed carry permit for a black powder pistol.

So, if you really want to REDUCE  gun violence, pass laws restricting the ammunition, not the weapons.

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