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Missouri legislature a bit unclear on meaning of 'unalienable'

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Yesterday's column about the upcoming August 5 vote, in which Missouri voters will decide whether or not to amend the state constitution so that it explicitly states that the right to keep and bear arms is unalienable, drew some spot-on comments pointing out that if a right is "unalienable," then voting on whether or not it is unalienable is meaningless. An "unalienable" right cannot fail to be unalienable, simply because the electorate decides on some whim not to recognize it as such. National Gun Rights Examiner David Codrea sums it up nicely:

If it's "unalienable," it's not subject to sides or opinions. It simply is. [More]

Isn't it time we had a national conversation on gravity? Who's "for" it? How about "against"?

But actually, there is perhaps an even more glaring contradiction in this proposed amendment to the Missouri constitution. The language of the amendment, while providing an explicit statement that the right to keep and bear arms is "unalienable," also contains a provision granting the state explicit permission to "alien" that right:

Nothing in this section shall be construed to prevent the general assembly from enacting general laws which limit the rights of convicted violent felons or those adjudicated by a court to be a danger to self or others as a result of mental disorder or mental infirmity.

This, remember, comes just after the section boldly stating that the right of every citizen to keep and bear arms "shall be unalienable." Are reformed, ex-convict armed robbers not citizens? Are people whom a judge dislikes enough to declare a "danger to self or others" not citizens?

There are, of course, even among gun rights advocates, plenty who are not at all troubled by the idea of forcible disarmament of felons and those deemed mentally ill (despite the dangers of a "mental health dragnet" and the inefficacy of mental illness-based disarmament at preventing mass murder). Some who call themselves "gun rights advocates" will even resent those of us who reject disarmament of former felons and those deemed mentally ill (but still safe to walk among us, supposedly, just as long as they can't legally buy guns), for "making us look bad."

The fact remains, though, that, as Codrea has long maintained, "Anyone who can't be trusted with a gun can't be trusted without a custodian."

The vote on the amendment is happening in just under two weeks--that is now unstoppable. If the measure is approved by the voters, the practical effect on gun regulation should be a positive one for gun owners--perhaps dramatically so.

Even so, that the right to keep and bear arms is "unalienable" has nothing to do with any vote on the matter, particularly when the measure being voted on also ensures that the state retains the power to make that right "alienable" for certain people.

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