3/97 Gun Control: Unconstitutional And Harmful

Gun Control: Unconstitutional and Harmful
Larry Pratt
Executive Director
Gun Owners of America
(Lead Statement for the America On Line Debate, March, 1997)

The founding fathers enacted the Second Amendment as part of a larger Bill of Rights because they wanted to spell out individual rights that would be free from any governmental jurisdiction. They clearly stated that the right of the people to keep and bear arms “shall not be infringed” — a right so important that they also spoke in terms of the whole population being the militia. Just months after ratifying the Bill of Rights, they passed the Militia Act of 1792 requiring virtually all able-bodied males to keep military rifles and the ammunition for them in their homes.

The founders were explicitly seeking to establish a national government that would do only those things that were specifically delegated to it. The Tenth Amendment drove this home by stating that: “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.” James Madison, in Federalist Paper 45, said that “The powers delegated by the proposed Constitution to the federal government are few and defined. Those which are to remain in the State governments are numerous and indefinite.”

The historical fact that gun control was not considered to be a legitimate power for government officials was recognized even years later. The Fourteenth Amendment was justified by its sponsors in the Congress as, among other things, a way of overriding state (Jim Crow) gun laws intended to keep blacks in de facto slavery. The Fourteenth Amendment was explicitly a vehicle to incorporate the Second Amendment to apply to the states.

In our time, there has been a tendency for courts to ignore the plain intent of the framers — both of the Constitution and of the Fourteenth Amendment. However, the courts are not the last word on what the law of the land is. Clearly, Abraham Lincoln was not of the opinion that the Supreme Court was the supreme law. The Dred Scott decision meant that fugitive slaves would have to be returned. Instead, Lincoln directly defied the Court and ultimately issued the Emancipation Proclamation. That is the way our system is supposed to work. All federal officials take an oath to uphold the Constitution, not just judges.

Recently, there has been some sign of backing away from judicial tyranny by the courts. In the Verdugo-Urquidez case, the Supreme Court did acknowledge that the Second Amendment protects an individual right. In the U.S. v. Lopez decision, the Court held that the Congress had no jurisdiction to legislate a gun ban in school zones. Generally, the Court held that the Commerce Clause (which has been used to justify so much federal gun control) could not be used to pass that gun ban.

Furthermore, scholars are increasingly taking the pro-gun view. Dr. Jim Wright and Dr. Gary Kleck have each backed away from their earlier support for gun control after doing massive studies on the subject. Dr. Kleck’s research has uncovered the fact that as many as 2.5 million people use a firearm to defend themselves every year. This means that firearms are used more than 60 times more often to protect the lives of honest citizens than to take lives.

And most recently, Dr. John Lott of the University of Chicago has published the results of an exhaustive, 15-year study of crime in the U.S. and found that the most significant way to lower murder and violent crime rates in a state is to allow citizens to carry firearms concealed.

Gun control has no place in a free society. The body of research is growing which shows that before the genocides of this century have been carried out by rogue governments, they first disarmed the target population.

Civilian disarmament is based on the assumption that people are irresponsible (unless they work for the government). This country was founded on the opposite premise. Rather than suspect the people, we are to suspect the government and keep it under control. As George Washington said, “Government is not reason; it is not eloquence; it is force! Like fire, it is a dangerous servant, and a fearful master.” We don’t need gun control, we need government control.