The 2nd Amendment guarantees my right to carry a gun anywhere I want… according to the NRA.
The NRA is hosting Donald Trump today as a speaker. I am sure he will give a great speech. He will talk about those evil liberals, like Nancy Pelosi (Scary!!!) who want to take away your guns.
He will stand tall with real Americans who want guns everywhere.
They want guns in colleges. In universities. In high schools. In elementary schools. In hospitals. In stadiums. In churches. In synagogues. In mosques..well, they don’t want mosques but if you have to have mosques let’s put guns in them.
Guns. Guns. Guns. Everywhere guns.
It’s the 2nd Amendment.
Except. When Mr Trump gives his speech later today there will be no guns allowed at the NRA convention. None.
The DC v Heller decision of 2008 established 3 things, according to the majority opinion written by Justice Scalia. (See https://josephurban.wordpress.com/2018/02/22/2nd-amendment-and-gun-control-part-1/ for details.)
First, individual citizens, not part of a militia, have the right to own weapons.
Second, the government has the right to regulate who can have weapons.
Third, the government has the right to determine the legality of specific weapons.
So, any attempt by any member of Congress to suggest that any gun control violates the 2nd Amendment should be referrred to the Scalia opinion. Gun control is constitutional.
So, what kind of gun control , which does minimal damage to the desire (not right) of gun owners to certain weapons, are possible? Here are some possible gun control measures which Congress could take.
A mandatory background check for any gun purchaser. Using a nationwide data base that identifies felons out on parole, individuals convicted of spousal abuse, individuals convicted of any violent crime, individuals currently charged with a violent offense pending trial.
A ban on the ownership and sale of military-style assault weapons and any devices that can be used to enhance the firing capacity of weapons, including bumpstocks. (Except in licensed shooting ranges).
A ban on the sale and/or transportation of weapons across state lines.
Mandatory written and field and safety tests for anyone purchasing a weapon, including a screening for emotional and mental stability.
A ban on any sale of guns other than that of a registered gun seller. This includes the ban on trading, swap meets or other gun sales not taking place in an established, permanent location.
The registration of all weapons with the local authorities. Including the free transfer of weapons to immediate famiy members, which would be legal.
Establishment of shooting ranges for those who wish to fire military style weapons. These establishments would be able to legally rent military style weapons to shooters to be used only at the shooting ranges.
The ban on any bullet or projectile designed to explode on entering the body or designed to pierce armor.
The licensing of any gun owner, renewable every five years, to determine that the person keeps up with the skill, visual acuity, mental capacity to handle a weapon safely and understands the law relating to weapons.
Establishment of free clinics and classes to teach and train gun owners as to the proper and safe use of firearms.
A Right To Know Law which gives parents the right to know which households have guns in them. A parent could then decide for themselves if they want to expose their child to a household which has a weapon. (Many children die playing with guns each year).
A yearly weapons licensing tax to help defray the costs of gun safety programs.
A health care premium Gun Violence Tax for gun owners. This would help defray the massive costs to hospitals,police, courts, jails and the insurance industry for costs related to the care of victims and perpetrators of gun violence nationwide. Hang on to your six-shooter. The annual estimated cost of gun violence in the USA is $8,600,000,000 (billion) in direct medical care. And the overall cost of gun violence to the economy is $229,000,000,000. See references at the end of this blog for details.
I am confident that many or all of these solutions, taken as a whole, would significantly reduce both intentional and accidental gun mortality. All of these ideas are constitutional and easily implemented. I am also sure that people more astute and informed than I have even more and better solutions.
We license people to drive cars. We renew auto license plates every year or two. We tax vehicles and gas used in those vehicles. We let people know if there is a sex offender living in the neighborhood so parents can protect their children. We heavily tax tobacco to reduce usage and pay for the costs of medical care caused by tobacco. So, none of the ideas above, if applied to weapons , is radical or unusual.
Would these solutions stop ALL gun violence? Of course not. Even places with strict gun control laws have some gun violence. But the likelyhood of desth by gun in these nations is minimal compared to the USA.
In Austria you are as likely to drown in a swimming pool as be killed by a gun. In New Zealand, your chances of death by gun are the same as falling from a ladder. In Poland, the chance is the same as being killed on your bicycle. And in Japan you are just as likely to be hit by lightening as killed by a gun.
Think about that last statistic the next time you watch a thunderstorm brewing.
There is a very strange argument that is made by politicians, the NRA gun manufacturing lobby and some others concerning the 2nd Amendment and the rights entailed therein. The argument goes like this:
The Second Amendment guarantees any person’s right to own any kind of weapon.
They take the 2nd Amendment and parse it out, emphasizing some of the words and ignoring others. Kind of like when Betsy asks me to take out the garbage. Me? Take out? OK , Let’s order a pizza.
A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.”
They kind of skip the first 13 words and then start reading. Speed reading? Skimming for the general idea? Hmmmm.
The obvious intention of the founding fathers was that, in the 18th century, there would be times when the local government would need a call to arms. Maybe the injuns were coming or the Brits had decided to try to retake the village. Or perhaps the Canadians were on the march attempting to impose universal health care on our children and widows.
Hence the first 13 words. A well-regulated militia. Pretty clear. Well…regulated …militia.
Some folks, however, ignore those words. They don’t like them. The 13 words not only imply a strict government control over arms, they specify it. We may need a local militia, so you should keep a gun handy. That does not mean you can have a gun for any other reason.
Of course, if the founding fathers INTENDED that everyone should have access to a gun for any reason they had no need for those 13 words. They could have kept it much simpler, as in the 1st Amendment. Short and sweet.
So the first argument supporting the notion that anyone can have any kind of weapon for any purpose is easily shot down and understood by anyone with a modicum or more of cognitive ability.
Of course, because the Constitution is interpreted by the Supreme Court, it really does not matter what the founders were thinking. The Supreme Court decides what the words mean, not the founders.
And here we see an interesting phenomena. The conservative justices who CLAIM to be “strict constructionists” have actually changed the meaning of the 2nd Amendment. Now, I don’t mind the Court trying to keep up with modern times. I think the Supreme Court should do so. But I do find the hypocrisy of the conservatives on the Court somewhat amusing.
These same justices who claim to interpret the Constituion based on the “original” document and words of the founders tend to let this one slip by. The “originalists” suddenly found, after more than 200 years , that the founders didn’t realy mean “militia” when they wrote “militia”. The majority opinion in the Heller decision goes through more contortions than a Chinese acrobat trying to justify that one. But, they had the votes. So be it.
The Heller decision, giving all of us the individual right to own a gun states, in part:
“Second Amendment protects an individual right to possess a firearm unconnected with service in a militia, and to use that arm for traditionally lawful purposes, such as self-defense within the home.”
So, the founders were simply wrong when they wrote “well-regulatedmilitia“. So much for the “strict constructionist” viewpoint.
But that’s ok. Everyone now has an individual right to own a gun. We all agree because the Supreme Court says so.
Which brings us to a second argument made by the NRA gun manufactuting industry and their employees in Congress. It goes like this.
Since I have the right to a gun, that means I have the right to ANY gun. And that means I can carry any gun anywhere I want. Therefore, no state or national government can make any laws restricting my right to own my gun or where I can wander around with it. Any government that does that is trying to take away my gun.
The obvious fallacy of that position is clear. If you want to think about it. It would mean that the only unlimited right granted to citizens by the government is the right to have a gun. All other rights have associated responsibilities and limits, but not my right to a gun. It places the 2nd Amendment in a different category than every other right.
Of course, that argument is easily refuted. Just look at the 1st Amendment. We have the right to free speech. It’s right there, in black and white. But that right is not unlimited. We have libel laws which restrain speech. We have regulations as to what words can be used on non-cable tv stations. We have slander laws. We have laws against threatening to kill others, especially political leaders. Try telling a joke about having a bomb in your backpack when you are boarding a plane and you will see how quickly your “free speech” is dealt with.
The same is true of freedom of religion. You have the freedom to worship in the church or mosque or synagogue or basement of your choice. You can pray to anything you want to pray to. Some Native American churches are even allowed to void anti-drug laws because they have a longstanding use of peyote in their rituals. But if you are an Aztec and believe in human sacrifice, that is a no-no. A fundamentalist Mormon may believe he can have numerous child wives (and some do) but that is illegal. You can believe it is your right and religious duty as the “father” of the house to beat your kids and wife. But that is not tolerated. Limitations.
So, every right has legitimate, common sense restrictions. Even in the Heller case, the most conservative of the justices, Justice Scalia, pointed out that this right is not unlimited. Specifically stating, in his majority opinion, that schools and government buildings are places where restictions may be logically imposed. Also, certain categories of people, like felons, could be legally restriced from owning guns. Further, he stated that the government has the ability to restrict certain kinds of firearms, like military weapons, as well.
So, the idea that every person has an unlimited right to any type of gun he wants does not pass muster. Even the most conservative member of the Court, Justice Scalia, recognized that, while you have an individual right to a weapon, that right is not without proper government restrictions.
In essence, the most radical arguments of the NRA gun manufacturing lobby and the extremists goes down the toilet. The only question that remains is: What are reasonable restrictions?