Packing (Future) Heat

I wasn’t going to get into this so soon, but recent events have unfortunately made this discussion timely. I promise to return to the discussion of physical appearance next time.

Remember, if you will, the setup for the world in South:

In the America of 2032, the Tea Party and radical right have been in power for over sixteen years and Grover Norquist got his wish to strangle government in the bathtub. Nearly all surviving government functions are outsourced, regulatory agencies have been neutered or abolished …

So what’s the state of the Second Amendment in this version of 2032, you ask? Quite rosy.

The Supreme Court’s 1939 United States v. Miller ruling proposed the primacy of the militia clause of the Second Amendment – that is, the amendment was geared toward the maintenance of a “well-regulated militia” and not necessarily unlimited ownership of guns. The current Court essentially repudiated this view in District of Colombia v. Heller (2008) and McDonald v. Chicago (2010), leaving gun control in legal limbo in America.

At the same time, conservatives have worked hard over the past two decades to demonize the entire concept of gun control, with great success. In the past few years, this has moved past the gutting of existing gun-control laws to establishing a “new normal” that disappeared with the close of the American frontier: the nearly unrestrained arming of essentially anyone who wants a gun. The Open Carry movement, supported by the National Rifle Association, has pressed for eliminating laws that prevent non-law-enforcement people from carrying guns openly in public without permits, with notable success. The NRA has opposed the 1990s assault-weapon ban and the ban on high-capacity magazines, mandatory gun-safety training for gun owners (odd, considering the NRA has the best gun-safety training available), requirements for locked gun storage, bans on specialized sniper rifles, and trigger-lock laws. It’s supported mandatory reciprocity for concealed-carry permits, carrying weapons in national parks and schools, castle and stand-your-ground laws, and private ownership of fully-automatic weapons. In general, the NRA’s focus is on the last four words of the Second Amendment (“shall not be abridged”).

I mention all this because of the mutual support between the NRA, the Open Carry movement and the Tea Party (the link is just one example of many, easily found) and the overlap in their adherents. In the scenario I outlined at the beginning of this post, it’s reasonable to assume that the least we could expect is the NRA’s current agenda.

(Before you fire off the comment that I must be a pinko commie faggot gun-hater, consider that I wore a Small Arms Expert Marksmanship Ribbon during my entire Air Force career and own a working 1940s-vintage Colt M1911. As for high-capacity magazines: if I can’t hit my target in the first eight shots, I deserve to lose the fight.)

How This Works in South

I had to do some philosophizing to figure out how this might work. If essentially unfettered gun ownership and display is the law of the land, how does that affect the people who aren’t Second-Amendment fundamentalists?

Open carry is essentially coercive. If you’re unarmed, you’re going to feel a threat from an armed person, whether or not that armed person means to pose a threat. While advocates say they carry weapons to maintain their gun rights or deter crime, they put themselves (perhaps deliberately) in a power position over their fellow citizens. They make the distinction between “law-abiding citizens” carrying guns and “thugs” doing the same, but how exactly do you know which one is standing in front of you? If you’re a clerk in a store and an angry customer is demanding a refund he/she isn’t entitled to, how do you react? Now if the customer has a holstered pistol, how do you react? Your answer changed, didn’t it?

So in South, nearly everyone is strapped. Luis, our hero, carries a Sig Sauer P250 Compact (yes, I’m assuming it’s still around) not because he really wants to, but so he can deal on an equal basis with the armed people who come into his store. Bel, his wife, carries a Smith & Wesson M&P 9mm Compact for the same reason other women of her time do – most of the men she encounters are armed. The bouncer at La Paloma (the bar Luis’ friend Ray controls) carries a 12-gauge shotgun, and La Paloma’s considered a nice place.

Because guns are so prevalent, all the associated problems we see today have grown larger, such as murder by firearms, accidental gun deaths, and mass shootings. Arguments that in 2012 might have gone no further than yelling and shaking fists devolve into gun battles in 2032 (as they often do now in gang-infested neighborhoods in which all the players are packing). Police have to turn every traffic stop and domestic dispute into a maximum-response situation since they’re nearly guaranteed to find at least one armed and angry participant. However, none of this has deterred crime at all; the bad guys have more and heavier weapons and the inclination to use them, the same dynamic we see around the world now.

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