Controlling People, Not Guns

As published in The Cavalier Daily

Gun control is a topic trotted out by leftists all over the country on a fairly regular basis. It will only be a matter of time before one of the Democratic presidential candidates embarks on a self-righteous crusade to eliminate guns from our lives. While the regulation of firearms is ultimately a social matter, the fact remains that we as private citizens of this country have a complete and absolute right to bear arms.

This right to bear arms as outlined in the Second Amendment is not limited to guns for hunting, or guns for self-defense or guns for show and tell, but comes with no qualifications other than that the right to bear arms shall not be infringed. The actual text of the second half of the amendment is as clear as day. One will note that there is not an asterisk next to it explaining the myriad of acceptable restrictions.

A common argument brought forth by many anti-gun zealots is that there is not an individual right to bear arms and that the “people,” through the National Guard, already bear arms. This notion is absolutely ridiculous. Other amendments clearly refer to rights of the people, and the Supreme Court has confirmed that these rights apply on an individual basis. I am sure none of us would be happy if it was suddenly declared that the Fourth Amendment’s reference to people did not apply to the individual, and as such a single person’s unreasonable search and seizure would be acceptable.

A great misconception exists about the first part of the amendment: “A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people” The misconception is that this statement somehow limits the exercise of the right to bear arms to the National Guard and that the founders did not intend for this right to be applied on the individual level. This is absolutely not the case.

Any scholar who has studied the writing style of the time can tell you that it was commonplace to put a preamble before formal writings. According to Roy Copperud, a former journalism professor at USC, “The sentence does not restrict the right to keep and bear arms, nor does it state or imply possession of the right elsewhere or by others than the people; it simply makes a positive statement with respect to a right of the people” (The Unabridged Second Amendment, J. Neil Schulman).

For example suppose an amendment to the University Judiciarty Committee’s Standards of Conduct stated, “Breakfast, being necessary to the performance of a good student, the right to eat shall not be infringed.” Would anyone seriously be under the mistaken impression that this right was only extended to good students or that only the right to breakfast was protected? This case is just as clear with the Second Amendment; the preamble just leads into the actual statement, giving some reasons for it, but not limiting its scope in any way.

It is absolutely absurd to think that a group of men who had just successfully completed an armed, violent rebellion against a tyrannical government would believe that the right to bear arms was limited only in scope to military organizations created by a government. One must remember that most of our founding fathers were inherently distrustful of government as an institution and believed that an armed populous was necessary to serve as an additional check and balance.

Being allowed to protect yourself is a fundamental value that has basis far beyond any government. I would challenge anyone who is so fundamentally opposed to weapons to place a sign outside their homes stating that they do not believe in weapons and have no way to protect themselves.

Ultimately, gun control is still a social issue. We certainly do not want known criminals running around with legally purchased weapons. A certain degree of control is necessary to make sure that we are not selling convicted felons guns; however, we should re-introduce the notion that people are responsible for their own actions, whether behind the wheel of a car (a much more deadly weapon in the hands of some) or a handgun. We do not exist in a nanny-state where the government must watch over the citizens with a careful eye. Obviously, people who abuse the right of owning guns should be punished, but there should be little to no interference to law-abiding citizen’s purchase or weapons.

Our Constitution is a sacred document, and when we continue to directly violate it by passing laws that severely limit or eliminate the people’s right to bear arms, we move more towards a society where any part of the Constitution can be rationalized away and suddenly we will wake up with some people being more equal than others.

Daniel Bagley is a Cavalier Daily associate editor. He can be reached at [email protected].