On machine guns and pistols

I'm reading the transcript [pdf] of the oral arguments in District of Columbia v. Heller, the case heard before the Supreme Court yesterday. Background information can be found via WSJ here; it's actually a pretty good layman's guide to the significance of this case.

I'm about halfway through the arguments. The justices seem to be grilling both sides pretty thoroughly. My biggest complaint thus far is that when discussing machine guns (in the context of what reasonable restrictions on arms might be), one of the amicae remarked,

I think it is more than a little difficult to say that the one arm that's not protected by the Second Amendment is that which is the standard issue armament for the National Guard, and that's what the machine gun is.

Later, it is asserted that pistols are necessarily included in this right, even assuming that it is based solely in the need for a "well-regulated militia."

Because when people have handguns --handguns are military arms, they are not just civilian arms -- they are better prepared and able to use them. And, certainly, when they join the military forces, they are issued handguns.

It's such a nitpicky thing, I know, but the M-16 (or M-4 if you're not stuck in the stone age like we are) is not a machine gun. It's a semi-automatic rifle. An "assault weapon," if you will--and that term is a legal fiction, frankly. I personally have never been issued a pistol, despite carrying a series of them while in Afghanistan. I was issued a machine gun, but that is by no means a universal military experience.

In case it's not obvious, I'm very much in favor of an individual right to keep and bear arms subject to reasonable restrictions. If it were up to me, we would just tack on another amendment specifically delineating the individual right and responsibility to reasonable means of self-defense. It's no one's job but mine to guarantee my own safety. I should be able to arm myself appropriately for the task.

If we're going to insist on limiting the 2nd amendment to well-regulated militias as understood in the late 18th centuries, well, I'm in one of those, and I will immediately head down to the armory and check out my rifle--to be kept clean and ready at my place of residence in case the Redcoats come back.


Addendum: ZING!!!!

JUSTICE SOUTER: Can we also look to current conditions like current crime statistics?
MR. GURA: To some extent, Your Honor, but we have certainly --
JUSTICE SOUTER: Well, can they consider the extent of the murder rate in Washington, D.C., using handguns?
MR. GURA: If we were to consider the extent of the murder rate with handguns, the law would not survive any type of review, Your Honor.
JUSTICE SCALIA: All the more reason to allow a homeowner to have a handgun.
MR. GURA: Absolutely, Your Honor.


OK, so I was totally wrong.

Mea culpa. Turns out that by the textbook definition, the M-16/AR-15 is a machine gun--because when you pull the trigger once, you can get more than one bullet to come out. This is in 3-round-burst mode, which I tend to forget about because I never use it.

Anyway, I am dumb.