rnk35 asked me overnight what my opinion was on D.C. vs Heller. Good timing; if I hadn't been asked an easy one, I might have been too lazy to write anything tonight. For those of you who don't know, that's the Supreme Court case this last week that (in all too common fashion these days) completely overturned the previous Supreme Court interpretation of the 2nd ("Right to Bear Arms") Amendment to the US Constitution while pretending to be completely compatible with it. (See the always-brilliant Dahlia Lithwick, "Was It Ever Miller Time?," Slate.com, 6/26/08.) The relevant back story, as documented in almost every worthwhile history on the subject, is that during the writing of the Bill of Rights they engaged in that classic bit of parliamentary hand-waving that you sometimes have to do to get a majority to pass anything: write an ambiguous piece of legislation that both sides can think means what they want it to mean. In this case, it was an argument over whether the US would grant unlimited gun ownership rights to every individual citizen, or just to the various state militias, what we now call the National Guard. Half the Founding Fathers said they would only approve it if it restricted gun ownership to the militias; half threatened to veto it if it restricted gun ownership at all; the resulting legislative compromise muddled the issue to this very day.
So, what's my opinion? I honestly don't care. No, let me make this really clear. Not only do I not care, I think less of you if you care a whole lot about the 2nd Amendment. This has got to be the most mind-bogglingly stupid thing we've ever argued about as a nation.
First of all, I don't care what you think the US Constitution says, and I don't care what laws you pass: if you think you can disarm the American people, you're an idiot. The closest thing I can come up with to a plausible estimate of how many firearms there are in the US is about 192 million, including about 65 million pistols. (Jeremy Travis, "Guns in America," National Institute of Justice, 1997.) I cheerfully invite you to imagine any way, in any way at all consistent with the 4th Amendment, that you could forcibly collect all 200 million or so guns there already are in here. And the government that spends billions of dollars a year to keep however many hundreds of tons of drugs from entering the country and fails, the government that devotes thousands of agents to trying to prevent umpty thousand illegal immigrants per year from entering the country and fails, isn't going to have any better luck stopping gun runners from importing and illegally selling as many handguns per year as the American people want. Period. So, the American people are armed. And they always will be armed. Get over it.
Secondly, if you think that any law, whether pro-gun or anti-gun, has ever had any effect on crime rates in America, you're at best ill-informed. Study after study after study has shown, to the contrary, that if you compare two jurisdictions of equivalent demographics, one with strict gun control laws and one with no gun control laws (or even, as is true in a couple of places, mandatory gun-ownership laws), there is no net difference. None.
And you know what that makes this whole debate? An absolute and total waste of everybody's time. We donate tens of millions of dollars a year to pro-gun and anti-gun lobbying groups, who spend that money on TV ads, who use that money to influence legislators if they can, and who spend millions of dollars every couple of years on stupid pointless Supreme Court cases like D.C. vs Heller, and for what? You would literally not notice the difference, no matter which side won. So no, I really don't care a whole heck of a lot which way the Supreme Court ruled on individual gun ownership. I have a very faint prejudice against banning anything, so to the faint extent I do care, I'm happy with it. But you know what? They could have ruled the other way and it wouldn't have bothered me one tiny bit. No, again, I'm understating the case: they could have ruled the other way and it still would have qualified, in my opinion, as the least important thing the Supreme Court did all year. I just wish we could bloody well settle the issue, get all the dim-witted or narrow-minded "single issue voters" who only care how a politician votes on guns to care about anything that would actually affect the country instead, and that both sides would just shut the heck up about the stupid guns.