Senate and the Second Amendment

Amid the gun control debate, those involved portray the issue inaccurately.

In the wake of recent tragedies, President Barack  Obama’s administration demanded bans on America’s most popular sporting and defense rifles, bans on standard magazines and other restrictions on lawful firearms ownership. Most media outlets echoed these calls, and some went so far as to demonize, stereotype and blame the National Rifle Association and firearms owners for these terrible crimes.

This is an unfortunate response. When developing public policy, demonizing those with differing viewpoints is counterproductive and solves nothing. Firearm owners are overwhelmingly responsible citizens, and they are from all walks of life. Contrary to the claims of some media pundits, those of us in the pro-rights community do care about senseless loss of life and do support measures to reduce violent crime and improve public safety.

Unfortunately, none of the president’s policies would have done that. Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s bill to ban assault weapons (actually popular sporting and defense rifles) and high capacity (actually factory standard) magazines was a rehash of a previous bill in place from 1994-2004. Academic studies by criminologists and economists, including one commissioned by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s own Justice Department, all concluded that the ban did nothing to reduce violent crime. In fact, after the ban expired, violent crime decreased by approximately 15 percent, according to FBI statistics. What is the sense in pursuing a policy that has a proven track record of failure?

The universal background check measure sounds appealing, but in reality it would have required background checks for nearly all firearm transfers. This means that one would need to run a background check on a close friend before handing them a firearm while target shooting. The penalty for not doing this? A felony and five years in prison. 

After the Senate voted, many, including a Minnesota Daily columnist, proclaimed that the measures failed because of the insidious “gun lobby.” This suggests that senators voted against these laws because of the influence of several corporate fat cats and weapons manufacturers. Indeed, the term conjures images of wealthy executives smoking cigars in a sumptuous office. However, this is simply not the case. The NRA and other pro-gun rights organizations are powerful not because of the influence of wealthy arms dealers but rather because millions of law-abiding, politically active citizens support the Constitution and oppose trading their fundamental constitutional rights for empty promises of public safety. It is curious that the gun lobby is mentioned, but New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s gun ban lobby, which spent $12 million in ads, is not.

The Second Amendment recognizes our natural right of self-defense and self-preservation. It is every bit as important as our other natural rights, including freedom of expression and religion. Gun control proponents often question the “need” for firearms, ignoring the fact that we do not live in a need-based society and that we do not have to prove “need” to government bureaucrats in order to exercise our constitutional rights. Simply put, without the right and the means to defend our lives, no other rights matter.