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?

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.

"Once you start regulating and banning weapons, you start going down a slippery slope," said Marc Greendorfer, 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They reject the notion the Second Amendment of the Constitution is outdated, saying the nation still needs to have armed citizenry.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 driven, 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 constitutional right to own weapons," said Greendorfer.

He added he's not opposed to restrictions on certain individuals such as convicted felons, but he feels the Second Amendment prohibits the ban of an entire 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 II," 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."

CrunchTime January 17, 2013 at 06:12 AM
In a phase, "Your right to throw a punch ends where my nose begins." To limit that right, we regulate (via laws) what you can do with your hands. All rights are regulated (e.g., voting, speaking, assembly) to safeguard against any single right infringing upon other rights. Your emphasis on the first enumerated unalienable right upon which this country was founded "Life" is well appreciated. To often in the argument, the right to life is forgotten in pursuit of advancing other rights.
Tim January 17, 2013 at 06:18 AM
Hey, Crunchtime, the gun isn't infringing on anyone's right to life you fool. It's the criminal using the gun and we have prisons for that... we even used to have a death penalty but you liberals believe more in the rights of convicted murders than the victims of violent crime.
Albert Rubio January 17, 2013 at 06:54 AM
I have very little interest, to no interest, to negative interest in guns, hunting, smoking, marijuana, drugs, etc. But it is always a mistake to impose one's personal inclination on these matters and on others. There is nothing reasonable or rational about bans and prohibitions or the people who advocate them. They are simply Tyrants who want possession of law because it is the monopoly of force. Persuasion is not required or desirable for anti-liberals. Liberty, properly understood is in everyone's interest. "Liberty is always freedom from government" -- Ludwig von Mises
Albert Rubio January 28, 2013 at 04:03 AM
A really good point about maintaining gun rights "I agree with the view that private ownership of firearms helps prevent tyranny. But changes since then make it a much weaker argument now. The gap between private weaponry and military weaponry has become much larger, as has the size of the professional military. Part of the original theory, at least as I read it, was that a large militia made a large professional army unnecessary. the real argument for private firearm ownership is ... The less able individuals are to protect themselves from crime, the more dependent they are on protection by government law enforcement. The more dependent they are on protection by government law enforcement, the more willing they will be to accept abuses by government law enforcement. The more willing we are to be pushed around by the police, the harder it will be to prevent a tyrannical government from arising. Indeed, in some contexts, most obviously the War on Drugs, one can argue that one has already arisen. And been tolerated." http://daviddfriedman.blogspot.com/2011/02/guns-and-freedom-different-argument.html
Nadja Adolf January 28, 2013 at 10:07 AM
You know what is sad about this entire nonsense? No "assault weapon" was involved in the Newtown shooting; the killer left the "scary rifle" in the trunk of the car - and it was stolen from his mother whom he'd already murdered. As for the difference between civilian and military firepower, have you heard of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising? How much different would the history of the genocide in Europe have been if such revolts had happened earlier, back in Germany, before the Nazis moved their rampage to other countries.


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