Legislative Issues - The Second Amendment
By: William P. Flinn
I wanted to kick off this 2012 legislative season by weighing in on some possible issues that may come up, or have already been introduced, both at the state and federal legislative levels, with regards to Second Amendment rights and gun control. But in order to fully understand the issues to be discussed in this article series, however, it is important to understand the very amendment in the U.S. Constitution that protects the right of individual citizens to keep and bear arms. That’s right, I said PROTECTS! Contrary to the belief of some misguided folks in political office, the Bill of Rights in the U.S. Constitution does not grant rights (nor was it meant to), but rather protects them. In other words, the Bill of Rights spells out that upon which the government cannot infringe or take away. And when our politicians are elected to office, they take an oath to preserve and defend this document, and all of the intents spelled out therein. I feel that it is because of this misunderstanding of the amendment’s intent (and as we will discuss in future articles in this series), a misunderstanding of terminology, or even forgetfulness (or wanton disregard?) of the oath taken by those in office, that some rather bad pieces of legislation are introduced, and some good ones are voted down. Man, I wish those people would read the darn thing they took an oath to defend. I have some spare shirt-pocket-sized copies if anyone’s interested.
The majority of the gun control issues that come up this year will no doubt be born of a complete misunderstanding of what the Second Amendment is all about, and just exactly what our founders envisioned when that amendment was written. The Second Amendment is not about duck hunting, collecting firearms, or even our practice of shooting at paper targets. It is not about only being able to own a certain type of firearm, or firearms with certain cosmetic attributes. I have even heard some poor folk out there argue that even in our modern times, with our modern technology, if we want to meet the original intent of the Second Amendment, that we can only own flint-lock muskets. Again – I have spare copies if any wish, I can send you one. I didn’t see anything in the amendment that even alluded to such things.
The Second Amendment is about self-defense, and a citizen’s right to defend against tyranny. Law abiding and decent citizens have a right (and an OBLIGATION) to defend their families and their properties from ANYTHING or ANYONE that would take away our rights to life, liberties, and the pursuit of happiness. Have you been reading the news lately? On one hand, we have an economy out of control and violent crime caused by desperate people abounds. On the other, there are those who wish to transform us into a Utopian, socialist society. And then (I ran out of hands) there are those who hate us and wish to kill us in the name of Allah and make us adhere to their religion. Our country was founded not on socialism or the strict adherence to the dogmas of any particular religion, but rather it was built on freedom, liberty, and God-given natural rights. And the Second Amendment is what protects a United States Citizen’s ability to protect those rights.
Awhile back, Dr. Suzanna Gratia-Hupp, in her testimony before the U.S. Congress (see video below), gave a very succinct statement of what the Second Amendment is about. She and her family were among the victims of the 1991 Lubby’s Café massacre in Killeen Texas that left twenty four people dead. Dr. Hupp survived, but her parents were tragically killed in that massacre. Ironically, these deaths could have been avoided if not for a Texas law that disallowed her from carrying her concealed handgun in her purse while in a restaurant. Look at events such as that which took place at Virginia Tech. A so-called “gun-free zone,” in which students were killed because a mentally deranged person came on campus and began shooting. Again, ironically, in the many minutes it took law enforcement to arrive, a well-trained student with a firearm could have possibly made a difference. In contrast, take the case of the shootings at New Life Church in Colorado Springs, December 2007. A concealed carrying member of the church took down a heavily armed gunman before he was able to inflict mass casualties on a church full of innocents. Only two innocents died, and the gunman was shot before he could continue his rampage. In all of these cases, the severity of the loss, or the saving of innocents, was contingent on whether or not a right was being grossly infringed or allowed to be exercised.
A few states have already enacted legislation to allow their law abiding citizens to carry a concealed firearm for the purpose of self-defense without needing a special permission slip (the CCW permit). This has popularly become termed as “Constitutional Carry,” and is enjoyed by Alaska, Vermont, and most recently Arizona and Wyoming. What this means is that a law abiding citizen who lives in these states, who is eligible to possess a firearm, is allowed to carry a concealed firearm while in his/her own state of residence. They can still obtain a state permit for the purpose of carrying their concealed firearm in another state, as long as that state recognizes the permit (this is known as “reciprocity”). Hopefully, a few more states will be able to pass similar legislation, and this trend will turn into the same wave of acceptance enjoyed by the so-called “shall-issue” concealed carry permits. The notion of the “streets flowing red with blood” if law abiding people are allowed to carry concealed firearms never came to pass. Crime rates in areas that allowed concealed carry went down. And the rates of concealed carry permit holders who later commit crimes is well below the percentage of non-permit carrying holders who commit crimes. Remember – criminals do not apply for permits, only the law abiding do. But regardless of the fact that this issue is about self-defense, our politicians somehow think that it is about protecting society. And since Colorado Democrats have already shot our version of this legislation down again so early this year, I will have much more to say about this in the next article in this series.
Still further pieces of legislation will possibly be introduced that attempt to ban a certain type of firearm solely based on the way it looks. Those “evil, black guns” out there, for example, were once banned because they looked a certain way, or had certain cosmetic features. No regard was given to how the firearm actually operates, or of its capabilities (or lack thereof). Only that it looks “evil” and is somehow perceived as being capable of rendering massive damage and mayhem all on its own. Or how about banning magazines that have a capacity exceeding a certain number of rounds of ammunition? With complete disregard for the fact that law abiding citizens in possession of these evil guns or high capacity magazines are not the ones who commit the crimes, instead of going after the true criminals, our legislators choose to punish the law abiding. This particular topic will be discussed much more in-depth in a later article in this series, but the point here being again that misguided fear and a complete misinformed perception will, in many cases, drive our legislative actions towards becoming potentially draconian laws. The innocent will be punished, and the criminals will be further enabled, all in an attempt for our government to show us that only THEY can protect us, or that they are trying to do something to “show” us how much they care. And they will do so even if that “something” is empty and meaningless, and only results in further harm to our natural rights.
So what do all of these issues have in common? Misunderstanding and misinformation, for one thing, will be the primary factor in bad legislation being introduced. The lust for control and the belief that only the government, instead of our citizens, is capable of protecting society from harm will also be a factor to be sure. And largely, I think that far too many of these bad pieces of legislation, or the turning away of good legislation, will be directed towards an inanimate object (the firearm) instead of being directed towards the behavior of the people who use them. Instead of enforcing existing laws to punish existing criminals, we will try to enact more and more laws that further infringes on a protected right by law abiding citizen. If we all understood what the Second Amendment is all about, perhaps we would not blindly vote for politicians with misguided ambitions. If our politicians would read the document that they swore an oath to protect, perhaps they would save themselves a lot of unnecessary “mental gymnastics” (again – I have spare copies if you need them sent to you). Instead of infringing on the rights of law abiding citizens, how about for once punishing criminal behavior? The Second Amendment is not about duck hunting. It is about a citizen’s right to self-defense and defense against tyranny. The sooner our politicians (and engaged citizens) remember that, the sooner we will have meaningful legislation in our country.