A Pistol is What You Use . . .

. . . to fight your way to a real gun.

I got to hear a few snippets of the Heller arguments today on NPR. In the intro, the reporter described a handgun as “the easiest method of self-defense.” I expect some ignorance of firearms from Eastern intellectuals like NPR reporters and most Supreme Court justices, but I also expect a guy like John G. Roberts, Jr. from the heavily-armed state of Indiana to know a little bit about firearms.

Chief Justice Roberts asked, “does it really make sense to say the best self-defense arm is a rifle, as opposed to a pistol?”

It’s a silly question. For home defense, a rifle is not the best weapon. But neither is a pistol. The danger with either is that the projectile might go through (or past) an invader and through anything and everything else in your house, including your loved ones and pets, drywall and siding, winding up in the house next door or across the street.

The best home-defense weapon (bear in mind that we’re talking about home defense, not concealed carry) is a 12-gauge shotgun. (There’s some debate about whether the best home-defense load is birdshot or buckshot.) In the enclosed spaces of a home, shotgun pellets are going to do serious damage to anything they hit, but aren’t going to keep going like a heavier and faster pistol or rifle bullet would.

The DC law at issue in Heller allows the possession of a loaded shotgun in the house with a trigger lock. It’s patronizing for the government to tell us how to keep our weapons secured, but keeping a trigger lock on a loaded shotgun is a reasonable safety measure. It takes a second to unlock the trigger lock, and then you’ve got the ideal home-defense weapon.

If the Second Amendment were about home protection, DC’s law would, I think, be reasonable.

Edit 3/20/2008: on further reading, it appears that DC’s law requires the locked shotgun to be unloaded. An unloaded locked shotgun is damn near useless. DC’s law might as well outlaw the possession of anything that goes “boom.” It wouldn’t even be reasonable if the Second Amendment were about home protection.

But the Second Amendment wasn’t written to allow us to protect ourselves against garden-variety home invaders or street thugs, or against rabid squirrels or foreign invaders. If indeed it provides an individual right, the Second Amendment was written to allow us to protect ourselves against tyrants and their agents. It was written to protect us against a government run amok and its street thugs and home invaders. In order to guard against the possibility of tyranny, the people should be at least as well-armed as the government agents.

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0 responses to “A Pistol is What You Use . . .”

  1. While “eastern intellectual” are two of the three words often used to describe me, and I don’t know squat about the relative merits of birdshot versus buckshot, I still wonder why you and I seem to be the only guys around who have chosen not to grab at the low-lying fruit, the easy, more palatable policy argument that self-defense is a good reason to adopt an individual right, and ignore the whole tyranny issue.

    Maybe us folk in the practical blawgosphere know something that the lawprofs refuse to acknowledge? Maybe we’ve just got a pair?

  2. Best home defense weapon? 12 gauge short barrel with a pistol grip – loaded with buckshot of course.

    I’d think the sound of pumping it would be enough to scare off an intruder.

  3. I agree with Ron. I’ve always heard that if you have a 12 gauge shotgun in your home and you hear a burglar, once you pump it all you’ll hit will be the burglar’s ass and the soles of his shoes.

    SHG, whether your argument makes sense or not, the question should be what the Constitution says. SCOTUS should not “adopt” an individual right if the Constitution didn’t create it in the first place.

  4. EdinTally, rock salt is one-fifth as dense as lead. It’s probably great for getting those pesky kids out of the yard, but when it comes to bad guys in the night I think you’ll want to use lead.

    Michael, I disagree as a matter of policy that we should be limited to the rights created by the Constitution. I’d favor limiting the government to the powers contemplated by the founders, though. More limits on governmental powers (which means more individual rights) are better.

  5. The problem with creating Constitutional rights when they aren’t express is whether such rights mirror the Founders’ intent. You might be able to create an individual right to bear arms without much trouble (thought not without dissent), but what other rights get created? The right to travel? The right to have an abortion? Etc.

  6. The problem is how you phrase the right. Suppose I want to be free from guns in my home. There doesn’t appear to be anything in the Constitution to counter that (does there?) so can I argue that my constitutional rights are being violated if a state actor — say, a policeman — brings his gun into my home?

    How would that right measure up against the right to bear arms, assuming that the Second Amendment does create a right to carry a gun?

    And does the Second Amendment create — recognize — reserve a right to carry a gun? The word chosen depends on one’s philosophy of the Constitution and intent. From one perspective, it’s hard to argue that the Bill of Rights is an exhaustive list of rights that should be afforded Constitutional protection. But from another perspective — that of deciding who the gatekeeper is when a new right comes knocking at SCOTUS’s door — maybe the Bill of Rights should be the touchstone.

  7. You must have really spacious houses down in Texas. Up here, maneuvering a shotgun through tight hallways and furniture-filled rooms is a difficult trick. A pistol is a lot easier to handle.

    What I’d really like is a short-barreled MP5 like all the SWAT teams have. That would be ideal for home defense.

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