The First Amendment and the Second Amendment
The other day I had a post on the murder rate. I wanted to see how guns entered into the picture… and could find data on gun ownership and sales. I did find data on the shares of stock of a company which sells primarilly to the, um, sportsmen market in the US, and found, not surprisingly, that it rises more quickly relative to the S&P 500 right before the murder rate goes up, and falls more quickly relative to teh S&P 500 right before the murder rate goes down.
But it would really be nice to have data on guns. Which is not going to happen. From what I can tell, the gubmint isn’t even allowed to keep records of who owns a gun or who wants to buy a gun for longer than it takes to do a background check.
On the other hand, I believe the gubmint is allowed a lot of leeway in collecting information about what people say, and its allowed to keep that information forever.
Maybe I’m missing something, but that would imply to me one or more of the following:
1. The right to bear arms is more important than the right to say what one wants in and of itself. Seems odd… the first amendment to the Constitution was freedom of speech, the right to bear arms was only the second individual right. Besides, there are places where most speech is permissible, but bearing arms is entirely forbidden. Examples can be located at almost any airport.
2. The right to bear arms is more important than the right to speak because it defends and individual’s freedom of speech from a government. But since freedom of speech is what makes organizing with one’s fellow citizens possible, a person’s right to bear arms for resistance against an oppressive government does not extend to mutual defense if this is true. Each person is intended to be on his/her own when dealing with the government. Another problem is that if we assume that allowing the government to keep track of what one says is not infringing on one’s freedom of speech, how can having the government keep track of which guns we own be infringing on the right to bear arms? Alternatively, if the government keeping track of our gun purchases is infringing on gun ownership, how is allowing the government to keep track of what anyone says and said (many years earlier) not infringing on freedom of speech?
3. The rights are equally important, but speech is watched more closely because it can more quickly and easily inflict damage on one’s fellow citizens. I think this one is ludicrous on its face. I personally don’t care what my crazy neighbor says or to whom he says it, as long as he’s not yelling when I’m trying to sleep. But if I see him walking around with a gun I’m calling the cops.
4. There’s one heck of a gun lobby and some types of guns whose continued legalization they favor are used exclusively or almost exclusively for killing people. Furthermore, they know it, everyone else knows it, and they just want to make sure nobody can prove it. This one actually makes sense – if the gun lobby thought they could prove that with more guns we’d all be safer, you can bet the numbers would be available.
Any other possibilities I might have missed?