To a large number of Americans, the debate over gun control seems obvious. Violence is a problem, so why not just make weapons harder to acquire, keep, and use? Other than the NRA, who cares?
The issue, however, is far deeper than many think, and the elected officials, pundits, and academicians who are proponents of stricter control have been and continue to be utterly dishonest in their attempts to apply more stringent measures. The reality of the legal and constitutional measures protecting the right to own weapons is clear and unambiguous, and the U.S. Supreme Court has affirmed that right, not just in the misty past but in very recent cases.
Prominently placed in the Bill of Rights, only the amendment providing Freedom of Speech and Religion precedes the Right to Bear Arms. George Mason (who, with Madison, is considered the “Father of the Bill of Rights”) wrote the Second Amendment, and he made his intention clear: the Right to Bear Arms belongs to every citizen.
And that right has additional protections in the Bill of Rights, particularly if attempts to restrict it come from the federal government. The Ninth Amendment makes it clear that unless a type of power is specifically granted to the federal government in the Constitution, it has no right to exercise such authority. And, as they say in commercials, wait, there’s even more. The Tenth Amendment specifically states that “powers not delegated to the United States [the federal government] by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.
This is not just a vestige of the past. In 2008, in the case of District of Columbia v. Heller, the United States Supreme Court again affirmed that individuals have the right to own firearms for purposes such as self defense. Two years later, in 2010, the Supreme Court in the case of McDonald v. Chicago, ruled that Second Amendment Rights applied to the states.
Therefore there is, both in historic times and in our own day, every possible Constitutional and legal protection for the Right to Bear Arms. Proponents of greater control have only one appropriate recourse: They must seek to repeal or modify the Second, Ninth, and Tenth Amendments,-- just under a third of the entire Bill of Rights!
They have not done so for two very good reasons. First, such a move would almost certainly meet with defeat. Second, altering the Bill of Rights opens the door to all sorts of potential abuse. Even most Americans who favor greater controls would flinch at such massive surgery on a document that has produced the most free society to ever exist on this planet.
Faced with such severe handicaps, those seeking to use federal measures to limit the right to bear arms have been both intellectually and legally dishonest. They repeatedly come up with one proposal after another to unlawfully and unconstitutionally override the Bill of Rights and the decisions of the United States Supreme Court.
The dangers of doing so extend far beyond gun ownership. Since the creation of the Constitution itself, no protection granted under the Bill of Rights has been repealed. The entire thrust of American history has been the expansion of freedom, not the restriction of it. Indeed, even the attempt to limit the ability of Americans to use alcohol, which is not mentioned anyplace in the Constitution, lasted only briefly after its passage before it was repealed.
Americans are also repulsed by the hypocrisy of many of the leading proponents of restricting the Second Amendment. Many of the leading advocates are (like NYC Michael Bloomberg and a whole host of leading public officials and Hollywood celebrities) individuals who are protected by armed personnel. The message is clear: They have rights that you don’t. Does a billionaire who travels in a limousine or private jet have a greater need for personal safety than the cleaning woman who must travel late at night from downtown to a possibly crime-ridden home neighborhood? Particularly at a time when budgetary shortfalls are resulting in downsized police departments?
Recently, a newspaper in New York State’s Westchester County published the locations of gun owners within its distribution area. The paper did not and could not produce any statistics indicating that these individuals were a threat to public safety. And indeed, if public safety is their motivation, why not print a list of those who had committed at least one felony? Or those who had communicable diseases?
There is no issue that concerns Americans that does not deserve a full and frank discussion. But that conversation needs to be honest. So far, the debate about gun control fails to meet that criteria.