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They reject the notion the Second Amendment of the Constitution is outdated, saying the nation still needs to have armed citizenry.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




Tim Starr January 18, 2013 at 06:38 AM
BTW, I should note for the record that there are two different people named Tim on the pro-rights side of this argument. I mostly agree with him, but my style is different than his, and we are not the same person.
Zach Copley January 18, 2013 at 04:50 PM
Permits are special waivers to do things that are normally *illegal*. Human rights, political rights, and civil liberties, such as the right of free assembly, freedom of speech and the right to bear arms should never be made illegal or require a permit. The purpose of the Bill of Rights was to enshrine that principle. Laws that infringe any human right are not valid. Owning and driving an automobile is not a right. So the analogy between guns and automobiles is a false.
Michael O'Connor January 18, 2013 at 05:20 PM
Do you share the views of Tim that citizens should NOT be allowed to use the modern day equivalent of "arms" used by the victors of the revolution? Why or why not? By the way, I am just yanking. Although I don't care for guns, I have NO problem for those who wish to have them for hunting, personal protection and target shooting, but I really don't understand why the line exists between semi and fully automatic weapons. IF an arbitrary line is to be drawn, why there?
Zach Copley January 18, 2013 at 05:28 PM
It's an arbitrary and stupid line. The standard when the Constitution was written was the small arms the military used, and we should have parity now. Note: this does not mean things like high explosives, tanks, howitzers, or drones, which are weapons which have no feasible self-defense purpose for an individual.
Tim Starr January 18, 2013 at 05:43 PM
Which Tim? Although full-auto weapons are not at issue currently, I don't have a problem w/ having them be legal. They're already legal in most states w/ some fairly strict Federal regulation (background check, permit, $200 tax, etc.). They're just expensive since it's been illegal to make new ones for civilian ownership since 1986. No legally-owned ones have been used in crimes since 1934 except for a couple of incidents involving corrupt cops. They're not terribly useful for self-defense, though. Even the military doesn't use them anymore except for suppressive fire.
Kathy A. January 18, 2013 at 06:10 PM
"...we should have parity now." " Although full-auto weapons are not at issue currently, I don't have a problem w/ having them be legal." Holy cow, guys. I have an individual liberty interest in not being shot up -- on purpose, by accident, or whenever you think you are "the good guy" and guns are always the answer -- and I have a liberty interest in not living my life terrified because of the notion that guns always win, end of story. There seem to be a number of people on this thread who do not agree with any safety measures regarding guns, whatsoever. It is hard to have a productive conversation, also, with people so blindly devoted to the cause of unrestricted gun ownership that they have no respect at all for the many citizens who wish to make some progress on gun violence. Guns are a public safety and public health issue; we have enormous numbers of gun injuries and gun deaths every year. Responsible gun owners agree with safety measures -- background checks, training, safe handling and storage -- and do not see justifications for civilian access to what amount to weapons of mass destruction. Nobody needs an automatic or semi-automatic or huge ammo clips and etc. for hunting, or for self-defense. The second amendment does not actually say, everyone can get any weaponry x infinity.
Tim Starr January 18, 2013 at 06:29 PM
We all have an interest in safety. Since we're talking about a civil right here, merely stating that something presents a safety risk is not enough to show that it can be restricted. You bear the burden of proving: 1) That the type of guns you want restricted present a high risk to your safety 2) That the restrictions you advocate will actually reduce that risk 3) That those restrictions will do so without placing an "undue burden" on the exercise of the civil right to keep and bear arms. You haven't even tried to prove any of those things. If you don't want to be bothered, then the lawyers who'll have to defend your laws to the Supreme Court will have to do it for you, and they will lose, costing the taxpayers lots of money, wasting a lot of time, and violating the rights of tens of millions of innocent people for no good reason. Neither semi-automatics nor high-capacity magazines present any greater safety risk than bolt-actions, pump-actions, lever-actions, or revolvers. Neither do high-capacity magazines. Proof of this can be seen in the fact that we HAD bans on such things for 10 years, and the studies done to see if this had any effect on crime rates couldn't find any. Crime has been doing down steadily before, during, and after the ban. Any attempt to justify banning those things stops there.
Kathy A. January 18, 2013 at 07:20 PM
OK, see. You are putting a burden on me to prove that each and every kind of weapon is a safety risk to me personally, and prove that specific restrictions will help. And I am just a person who does not want to be shot; does not want my kids shot, or my neighbors, or even people I do not know. I have really big concerns about the high levels of gun violence (homicides, suicides, injuries, accidents) in this country; and your starting place is "second amendment, we win." Same as your ending place. The amazing progress that was made on auto safety came from a lot of directions; and so, too, must progress on gun safety. I understand that cars are not mentioned in any amendments; they were not invented when the Constitution and the bill of rights were created. Neither were automatic weapons, semi-automatic weapons, or the kinds of ammo that are available now. The founders never grappled with huge amounts of gun injuries and deaths, with weaponry that they could not possibly have imagined. We obviously disagree -- both Tims -- about guns. I do not allow them in my house, except when carried by uniformed police officers. I do not want them around me; I will never own one. But I suspect that nobody wants to see schoolchildren shot, or people in shopping malls or the movie theater, or to see robberies gone bad, or armed confrontations where both sides think they are the good guy. I would like to see ANY suggestions you have, besides more guns.
Tim Starr January 18, 2013 at 07:31 PM
I don't put that burden on you, the Constitution & Supreme Court do. If you don't like it, tough, there's nothing you can do about it, so get used to it. As judged by gun accidents & crimes, amazing progress has been made for decades, without your laws. Again, you need to demonstrate that the restrictions you advocate will actually help. The Founders went through the Revolutionary War, against the mightiest empire in the world at the time. They dealt with all sorts of injuries from muskets, rifles, cannon, etc., with 18th-century medicine. Those were far more lethal than today's semi-automatics. They had plenty of experience with this. Your personal preferences about guns are irrelevant. I don't want to get an abortion, either, but that doesn't give me the right to restrict them for others. If anyone was proposing abortion registration, waiting periods, background checks, limits to having one a year, etc., then the abortion-rights crowd would be up in arms about it, and rightly so. Yet you seem to think that's perfectly OK when it comes to a right that's actually in the Constitution, as opposed to being mere judicial fiat.
Zach Copley January 18, 2013 at 07:50 PM
Kathy, are you sure your ideas on what would reduce gun violence work? Gun crime has been falling for years, yet people are buying more and more guns. See: http://www.sacbee.com/2012/12/27/5079151/california-gun-sales-increase.html The assault weapons ban primarily deals with cosmetic features of certain guns. How does changing the way a gun *looks* keep anyone more safe? It's hard to have a productive conversation with people who aren't positing rational proposals for how to address the problem (a problem that seems to be getting better on its own). Here's a rational proposal. How about we make it illegal to keep firearms in a residence in which someone resides who has been adjudicated as mentally ill, or even someone who is being treated for mental illness and on psychotropic drugs, such as Adam Lanza and every other mass shooter in recent memory.
Zach Copley January 18, 2013 at 07:55 PM
Why do you trust the police with guns, but not your neighbors? Police shoot hundreds of people every year, many of whom are innocent of any crime. Many are accidents, but many are also simply the police abusing their monopoly of force. http://abcnews.go.com/US/story?id=95584&page=1
Dover January 18, 2013 at 08:09 PM
"The founders never grappled with huge amounts of gun injuries and deaths, with weaponry that they could not possibly have imagined." "A musket ball didn't cut its way into you. It smashed through skin, bone, and muscle - and sometimes would then bounce around even more inside your body (doing even greater damage). If you were fortunate, the musket ball would pass clean through you - a simple in-and-out flesh wound, perhaps damaging some nerves and muscle tissue. But if it impacted bone, you were in trouble. Of course, once wounded, your problems were only beginning. You would need medical care. And medical care in the Revolutionary War wasn't exactly...well...good. This wasn't the fault of the practitioners (not in most cases anyway). Medicine simpy hadn't developed to a point that it could adequately keep up with the diseases, hardships, and injuries of the Revolutionary War period......."
Dover January 18, 2013 at 08:10 PM
continued: "Getting back to that accuracy issue...the tactics of the day took the musket's limited range and accuracy into account. This is where volley lines and bayonets come in. A mass of soldiers standing shoulder-to-shoulder firing their muskets in a unified direction helped compensate as did the bayonet. If you feared getting hit by a musket ball, getting impaled by a bayonet was even less appealing. Of course, if you were fortunate enough to escape battlefield injury during the Revolutionary War, you weren't "out of the woods" yet. Far more soldiers died of hardship and disease than on the battlefield. That's right. If musket balls and bayonets didn't get you, there was still something like smallpox to take care of business. It's hard to find an upside to life in the Revolutionary War period. As historian David McCullough has repeatedly reminded us, life was hard in that time period. Today, we tend to see this era through romanticized paintings. But we need to guard against the assumption that things were easier or better."
Dover January 18, 2013 at 08:13 PM
Link to the above: http://americanfounding.blogspot.com/2008/05/getting-shot-by-musket.html I find it sad how ignorant so many are about their own history.
Tim Starr January 18, 2013 at 09:03 PM
Indeed. Another misconception is the notion that full-auto small arms are capable of mowing down entire lines of people, like spraying them with a firehose. That is a highly inaccurate metaphor, at best. I saw a demo in which a row of balloons was lined up similate a row of soldiers. Then they were fired on with a WWI-era tripod-mounted, belt-fed machinegun, which is more accurate than any hand-held full-auto guns today. Less than half the balloons were hit. Hand-held full-autos are even more inaccurate (due to greater recoil), which is why, as I said before, they are only used by the military today for suppressive or burst fire.
Kathy A. January 18, 2013 at 09:44 PM
Twenty dead kids, and six dead adults; in minutes, in just one incident. So excuse me if I am not all on board with the gun-love-fest. And ya know, today's better medicine did not save those people. Only one injured person was taken away, because everybody else who was shot was also dead. The hospitals and emergency crews were ready for mass injuries, but those did not happen, because everybody else was dead. The shooter's mother -- another one dead -- kept those weapons because she bought the kind of "reasoning" that you are selling. And I don't. Despite your devotion to all guns all the time, I think we can do better than that. Zach, I trust the police because they are background-checked, and they have extensive training, and I know that our local police force has better tools in the problem-solving box than "shoot first, ask questions later." I'm utterly baffled by arguments assuming that any common-sense regulation is the equivalent of a concentration camp. Thinking about gun safety should not induce the vapors in a bunch of manly men with weapons. Shouting about the second amendment -- well, you said that already, so what else have you got? Anything that might help fewer people get shot?
Tim Starr January 18, 2013 at 10:25 PM
Gun-free zone laws make public schools a target-rich environment full of state-certified defenseless prey. Of course any shooter who disobeys such laws will rack up a high death toll. That's a result of your beloved "common sense gun safety laws," not any improvement in weapons technology. The highest death-toll school violence incident in American history is still a bombing from 1927. I'm still waiting for you to come up with one of those "common-sense safety restrictions" that will actually help reduce this sort of thing. Thus far, you've completely refused to offer any specifics. Why is that? Could it be that you're just parroting a vague generality promoted by partisan gun-haters? Police remain far more likely to shoot the wrong person than civilians with guns. Police training with guns isn't all that extensive, either. They switched to the Glock starting in the 1980s because they required less training. Even SWAT operators don't train as much as you might think, because their departments don't pay for it. Given that the vast majority of the millions of defensive gun uses in America each year never even reach the point of a gunshot being fired, it seems that armed civilians have plenty of things in their repertoire other than shooting first. Most firearms trainers will tell you to shoot only if you're willing to be tried for murder afterwards, because that's what happens.
Tim Starr January 18, 2013 at 10:27 PM
But let's take you at your word, Kathy: You say you trust cops more than civilians because they're trained & background-checked. Fine: Would you trust civilians with the same training & background checks to carry the same types of guns as the police? That includes full-auto, silencers, short-barreled rifles, short-barreled shotguns, etc.
Dover January 19, 2013 at 12:10 AM
"The shooter's mother -- another one dead -- kept those weapons because she bought the kind of "reasoning" that you are selling." Wow, you can speak to the dead? Cool! Will you please ask my Nana where she hid her banana bread recipe?
Zach Copley January 19, 2013 at 12:21 AM
I guess you didn't read that article about Police-related fatalities and instances of abuse. Police are not always your friend. Shootings like Newtown are extremely rare, and may be linked with irresponsible use of psychotropic drugs, such as SSRIs. Your version of "sensible" simply means taking away my rights. What else have YOU got? Gun control doesn't stop mass shootings. They still happen in countries like the UK which have all but outlawed private ownership of guns completely, in fact gun crimes there are on the rise (criminals, don't obey gun control laws, apparently) and the UK is the violent crime capital of Europe. And it became that after stripping the citizens of their guns. Is that what you want? Would you like to trade a small reduction in violent crime involving guns, for a much higher overall violent crime rate?
Tim Starr January 19, 2013 at 12:37 AM
E.g., I have a friend who's a Marine who was honorably discharged from active duty. Every Marine is a rifleman. He was clearly trained & background-checked, and found fit to carry military weapons. Would you permit him to have them now that he's no longer active? There's a LOT of inactive or retired military who have a lot more training & experience under fire than your average cop. If that's your criterion, why can't they have military firearms?
Zach Copley January 19, 2013 at 12:38 AM
I would like to see the people who "don't need guns" and think nobody else should be allowed to have them either be willing to put a "This house proudly gun free!" sign in their front lawns.
Dover January 19, 2013 at 12:49 AM
You mean like this? https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=wt1Zy_ASNyA
Tim January 19, 2013 at 05:27 AM
Yes, unfortunately, the residents of my former hometown Westchester County didn't get to make that choice. The Journal News made that for them.
Zach Copley January 20, 2013 at 07:06 AM
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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