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The Freedom of Buying & Selling Guns is a Basic Right

I was raised hearing over and over the message that at some point in the not too distant future, people who wish to engage in economic activity will be required to receive the Mark-of-the-Beast. It’s been well over three decades since I believed this, but I do have to express some gratitude for an early introduction to the concept of totalitarianism and to the value of basic rights, be it the religion a person chooses that goes against the majority or the many other expressions of individuality that our nation protects in varying degrees.

And then along comes a petition that I ran across recently that reminds me that some people read books about dystopian futures and think, “that’s a good idea.”

An anonymous person has started a petition on the site, SumOfUs, related to the ability to buy guns and ammunition with credit cards. This petition, which comes with a content warning that the subject of gun violence will be discussed—akin to a peanut warning on a jar of peanuts—calls on credit card companies to freeze accounts that engage in “excessive, erratic gun and ammo purchases” and report them to law enforcement. The belief of the petition’s author is that such purchases indicate preparation to commit a mass shooting.

In my adventures in gun buying, I acquired a Short Magazine Lee Enfield No. 4 Mk.I several years ago and hurried off to the range. I was so pleased with it—including turning a deck of cards that had been left on the table into confetti—that I went back to the gun shop to get another copy of the same model, this one with a decent sporterizing addition of a scope on a rail.

Fortunately, my bank didn’t regard the purchase of two rifles and associated ammunition to be a case of erratic spending. Of course, the Smelly comes with a (currently) California-approved ten-round magazine.

If I had the tools and the time, I’d be tempted to work up a thirty rounder, even though the rimmed .303 cartridge would make that a challenge. But share with me for a moment the nerdy joy of hanging a banana magazine from a Lee Enfield and trying a Mad Minute.

Ignorance Or Contempt

The petition here once again illustrates either the ignorance or the contempt that gun control advocates have for those of us who own and shoot firearms. The logistics of a trip to the range could very well set off alarms among people who get twitchy about ordinary people being armed, since going through a couple hundred rounds is completely normal. And people who participate in competitions will regard that ammo quantity as “so cute”.

This petition isn’t precise about what excessive or erratic purchases might be, but even with carefully defined terms, the call for credit card companies to limit the exercise of a right is a bad idea. Without a clear distinction between preparations for a mass shooting and purchases for legal activities, this approach would result in so many false positives, drawing resources away from sound investigations.

There are good ways to anticipate a mass shooter’s plans. Would-be killers often show a building pattern of threats and violence. Those are much better indicators to use, and unlike buying ammunition in bulk, a person who beats a domestic partner or says he’s going to kill someone has committed an actual crime.

Attacking the ability to participate in economic activity sets a bad precedent. We all have things that we think is bad for society, but when said activity is not categorically wrong, we’d do well to wander away from Revelation to a different passage: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.