Gun Advocates: Owning A Weapon Is A Civil Right

Those who champion 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 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.

Patch commenters

On the Lamorinda Patch Facebook page, one commenter stated: "California gun laws are some of the strictest in the nation, yet it has done very little to reduce gun violence. I also don't believe the federal government should intrude in this matter. I think any further gun laws, bans, restrictions, etc. should be left up to the states."

Another said: "Although we have some of the strictest gun laws in the nation, there are some very glaring blind spots. Check into the exclusions made for gun shows ... You want to own a hunting rifle or a hunting shotgun go ahead — go through a background check and own a gun. You want to buy an assault rifle join the army. Again I don't want to take people guns away; I want us to stop the manufacture of new ones."

Gun advocates

Gun rights supporters reject the notion the Second Amendment of the Constitution is outdated, saying the nation still needs an armed citizenry.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 an 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 driven, gun advocates say, by people's fear that certain weapons will soon be banned. "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 present 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.

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 is not against restrictions on certain individuals such as convicted felons, but he feels the Second Amendment prohibits the ban of an entire classification of weapon.

Greendorfer, a hunter and 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.

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."

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.

Combs acknowledges weapons such as machine guns and bazookas are rightfully restricted.

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.

Baryla said waiting periods for someone who has already passed initial checks don't curb violence. "It's just a restriction on commerce," he said.

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.

Greendorfer is less adamant. 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 feel there is a lot of misinformation about weapons and a lot of emotional rhetoric.

They point to Nazi Germany, the Soviet Union under Joseph Stalin and Communist China under Mao Tse-tung as examples of gun control regimes.

"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."

JClark927 January 18, 2013 at 05:45 AM
BTW, since we have now heard the administration's proposals, I'd like to return to my earlier comment, "How they get away with proposing laws that would not change the tragedy at all, while not being called on it is beyond me." I heard 3 new points of legislation proposed (ignoring the exec orders): (1) Background checks for all purchasers: while I am not necessarily against this (they absolutely can be instant checks and there is no reason to retain records): it does not bear on Sandy Hook -- the guns were stolen from the murdered mother. (2) ban on "military style" firearms (what i would just call a "modern rifle"): So, the victims would have been killed by a different looking gun? Mass murderers never seem quite crazy enough to pick a defended place, 10 round magazines and a wooden stock would change nothing about that dreadful day. (3) More police funding: again, I do not oppose, but the old saying is, "when seconds count, the police are just minutes away". So, I am calling BS: the politicians are standing on the graves of innocents to push legislation that would change nothing.
Hannah Cammak January 18, 2013 at 02:28 PM
I'm not afraid that our government will somehow turn into a tyranny that will one day come to get me. I think the very idea is absurd. And honestly, if that day came, a couple of pistols and an AR-15 aren't going to make any difference against the armed forces of the United States. As one of my brothers says, if you believe that I've got a black helicopter I'd like to sell you.
Chris Nicholson January 18, 2013 at 03:42 PM
@Hannah: You are free to think what you want-- that's what freedom is about. The 2nd amendment does not REQUIRE you to arm yourself (although contemporaneous legislation initially DID). If you think it is kooky to own a gun, don't buy one. But to take that right away from everyone requires an amendment to the constitution. There is a procedure for that. On the substance of your point (crazy to fear the gov't; small arms won't help anyway), I think you have uncritically swallowed the talking points from the left. Government tyranny is not binary, it is incremental. I think we can all agree that we are a long ways away from widespread systematic oppression that would justify armed resistance. But isolated cases have happened (Ruby Ridge) and if the water ever got hot enough to cook the frog, it would already be too late. I think it is extraordinarily unlikely that we will get there. But I also recognize our Founders' wisdom of having the 2nd Amendment as a prophylactic against even a slight drift toward tyranny.
KMC January 18, 2013 at 06:11 PM
Hannah, I agree. I'm concerned about preventing more killings like the one in Conn, not some fantasy about the US government coming to get me.
KFrances January 18, 2013 at 10:49 PM
Obama won becasue women were afraid the Government would come and get them - or I should say their right to an abortion - so I wouldn't be so holier than thou making some people out to have fantasies about the power of the government. Pick your poison Stuxnet, Earthquake, Currency Collapse... Not like financial world is healthier since all the $ was stolen with TARP.


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