Jan 27 2013

Gun control in the details

Published by at 10:20 am under Idaho,Idaho column

idaho RANDY
STAPILUS
 
The Idaho
Column

It’s not true, as many people (outside the state no less than in) probably suspect, that Idaho has no laws controlling guns – which is to say, gun control.

Idaho surely is one of the most easy-going states on gun regulation, as the state was reminded this week after news reports (though it isn’t really news) that elected officials, including legislators, have an automatic right under state law to carry concealed weapons.

But check out online the Idaho Code Title 18 Chapter 33 (the main but not exclusive set of statutes on guns), which is titled “firearms, explosives and other deadly weapons,” for a starter. It covers a range of subjects that might surprise many Idahoans. First on the list: “Every person having upon him any deadly weapon with intent to assault another is guilty of a misdemeanor.” In words, with intent to use it for any purpose other than sporting or, presumably, clear self-defense.

There’s the ban on selling guns to minors (without parental consent), on carrying a concealed weapon “when intoxicated or under the influence of an intoxicating drink or drug,” on carrying firearms onto school property (though the legislature may reconsider that this year).

Best be careful parading around with a gun in view, too: “Every person who, not in necessary self-defense, in the presence of two (2) or more persons, draws or exhibits any deadly weapon in a rude, angry and threatening manner, or who, in any manner, unlawfully uses the same, in any fight or quarrel, is guilty of a misdemeanor.” “Rude” and “angry,” after all, are seen in a beholder’s eye.

The Idaho laws define “firearm” and “weapon” in various places, but they don’t match up with the Second Amendment, which refers to “arms”: “the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” (The premise before those words – “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State,” – having seemed largely to have escaped much discussion.)

What are “arms” taken to be? In Revolutionary days, they mostly meant muskets and cannon, but a quarter-millennium later “arms” means other things. We speak of nuclear arms, of chemical weapons, of drones and surface to air rockets, of IEDs, as well as Uzis and on down to the modest hunting rifle.

So which of these arms do Americans have a constitutional right to “keep and bear”?

The answers will vary from person to person. I’ve posed it to several second amendment enthusiasts, and the answers have varied. Nuclear weapons seem pretty commonly beyond the pale, but after that answers differ. Few addressed the question of non-firearms arms. Some went along with the idea of excluding really high-capacity firearms, others didn’t.

But this may be the point at which the gun rights, and gun control, discussion needs some focus. Relatively few people have any interest in limiting (more than now) ownership or use of firearms intended for sport, hunting or defense. The debate really kicks in beyond that.

In the details.

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