Guns, Laws and Commonsense: Part 3
With every right- and the right to bear arms is as fundamental as the right to free speech- comes responsibilities. For example, no one has the right to yell “FIRE” in a crowded movie theater (the classic example) and no one has the right to ritualistically kill humans in an exercise of their right to practice religion. As concerns gun control, obviously there are also responsibilities. No conservative believes that the criminally insane or felons should be allowed a unfettered right to own firearms. But, I would urge caution in some of these cases given the circumstances. For example, imagine a person in a state without “stand your ground” laws or a Castle Law either in statute or common law form. Imagine the person kills an intruder in their home and the state prosecutes them for manslaughter. Technically, they are an ex-felon whether they serve a sentence or get a slap on the wrist.
Here, laws which seriously infringe on the rights of law abiding citizens to purchase and possess firearms to the extent that they create de facto firearms bans are constitutional. The only way any legislative body could regulate in this area would be if the regulation can be proven to have an effect on decreasing violent gun-related crime. Hence, lacking that proof, the right must necessarily take precedence. Illinois, for example, is the classic case where concealed carry of firearms is absolutely prohibited. Yet, as other states show, the crime rates involving guns are decidedly lower than the rates in Illinois. In other words, Illinois has failed to prove the connection between their concealed carry prohibition and its effects on crime rates. As a result, the law must fall. Many gun control laws prove exactly the same thing.
Laws which restrict minor access to firearms have proven useless as the occasional tragedy in a school proves. Do these laws, despite not stopping occasional gun violence at the hands of minors, necessarily severely impinge upon the right to bear arms? One cannot really argue that they do except as regards to the targeted class- minors. Have assault weapon bans severely restricted gun ownership rights in the broader sense? One might argue that as one goes up the ladder in terms of firepower, the government may have a greater interest in restricting the basic right. No one would want just the average Joe possessing a grenade launcher (technically, an “arms” under the 2nd Amendment) or even an AK-47. Of course, there are exceptions carved out for gun dealers and collectors. As we know, criminal elements generally still get their hands on these weapons.
One general class of rules- those that restrict the number of handgun purchases to one a month- are starting to get closer to the infringement of a fundamental right, as are excessive waiting periods. But the problem is that as the legal, law-abiding citizen is playing by this set of rules and obstructions being placed in their way by the government, criminals are under no such restrictions. Furthermore, keeping firearms out of the hands of law-abiding citizens has proven counterproductive in reducing crime rates involving guns. And this is not intrinsic to the United States as some would have you believe by saying that it is our gun culture that breeds crime. Finland, for example, has a gun ownership rate twice that of Italy, yet their violent crime rate is half that of Italy. Contrary to popular belief, European countries are not gun-free zones with resulting low crime rates. India has low gun ownership rates, but an exceptionally high homicide rate. The fact is that both domestically and internationally, reducing the number of firearms does not necessarily result in a decrease of crime. Thus, lacking this nexus, laws must necessarily give way to the fundamental right to bear arms.
The fact remains- gun laws or not- we will occasionally have the tragedy of a Columbine or a Trayvon Martin. The strength or laxity of the gun law has little bearing on this reality. But because these occasional tragedies occur at all is not proof that we should compromise a basic fundamental right that, quite frankly, predates our Republic. Some recent editorials point out that it is conservatives who are trying to play politics with the Martin case in Florida. Talk about psychological projection. With almost every publicized case like this, it is Liberals who trot out their talking heads to demand stronger gun control laws. It was Schumer who sat there on the Sunday talk shows saying he was going to look into “these stand your ground laws.” Stand your ground laws did not pull the trigger in a situation in which we do not know all the facts. If anything, it is conservatives who are proving the cooler heads here. Without a doubt, it is a tragedy. But the bigger tragedy would be to trample on a Constitutional right because it became politically expedient, or because we misinterpreted the purpose of the law, or because we allowed emotion rather than logic dictate our actions.
The arguments regarding accidents with guns likewise hold little water as study after study has proven that minors are more apt to be killed by accidental poisoning, car accidents and a host of other such mishaps. And while we do, for example, have seat belt or child seat laws and laws which require childproof caps, accidents still occur. The same would be true with the occasional, and even more rare, home accident involving a firearm. Accidents happen and the best of laws cannot eliminate them, only lessen their chances of occurring.
For the most part, law-abiding gun owners have dealt with these laws except the outright bans. For the most part, law-abiding citizens have been stigmatized by liberals for gun ownership. For the most part, liberals have used every tragedy involving a gun to advance an agenda that would trample on a fundamental, well-articulated, and clearly stated Constitutional right.