hard heads soft hearts

a scratch pad for half-formed thoughts by a liberal political junkie who's nobody special. ''Hard Heads, Soft Hearts'' is the title of a book by Princeton economist Alan Blinder, and tends to be a favorite motto of neoliberals, especially liberal economists.

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Friday, November 12, 2004
comment on winds of change:

The problem is that the slippery slope cuts both ways. The second amendment does not grant the right to bear guns, it grants the right to bear arms. You may be complacent about the spread of assault weapons, but if you go up the scale of increasingly destructive armaments you will eventually find stuff that you do, in fact, want to ban. And face the same dilemna of restricting the rights of an individual for the good of society.

To put the point more clearly, it may be true that there is no clear bright line separating assault rifles from regular rifles, but it is equally true that there is no clear bright line separating assault rifles from other more destructive weapons, including shoulder fired stinger missiles.

In other words, I don't want a post saying there's no point drawing the line at assault weapons, I want a post explaining where exactly you'd draw the line and why, including not only the weapons you wouldn't bother banning, but the weapons you would.

For my part, I would say the second amendment exists to protect the rights of private citizens to bear arms for legitimate purposes, including protecting your family and property, and including protection from potential government tyranny. But also that the government has both the right and the duty to regulate and prohibit possession of certain arms, stinger missiles and cop-killer bullets among them. So with any specific weapon, we must ask to what extent regulation/prohibition constrains the right of law-abiding citizens to bear that weapon for legitimate purposes, weighed against the potential benefits to society of such regulation/prohibition.

Getting down to the practical: rather than an outright ban, or outright repeal, How about licensing and regulation, not for ordinary handguns and rifles, but only for assault weapons and more potentially lethal stuff? With great power comes great responsibility, and all that.

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