(EDITOR’S NOTE – this story was originally published on 4/12 in my column at IVN – The MidWest Wing Report)
Gun control is certainly not a new issue in the United States but the topic has never been hotter than it is right now. The fight over the Second Amendment to the Constitution and its bearing upon today’s society is everywhere - the 24-hour news channels on TV, talk radio, the internet, and the front page of every paper in the US. It seems that every facet of the gun control issue that could be debated is being debated. The thing is, the argument isn’t really about guns or gun control…its about the role of the federal government, individual liberty and state’s rights
On the surface the argument is over what “the founders intended” when they wrote the Constitution and subsequent amendments to it with the Bill of Rights, the second of which reads “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“. However, the reality is that the true debate is over the legislative reach of the federal government, a debate that is as old as our nation.
The line “the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed” is at the heart of this specific gun control discussion. There are those who say that when our founding fathers created this amendment they could have never envisioned semi-automatic pistols or rifles with ranges exceeding hundreds of yards. This is true. But they also didn’t live in a time when the enemies of our nation, both foreign and domestic, had such weapons (and much much greater ones) available to them.
Some would say the debate over gun control is similar to those regarding the use of seat-belts and motorcycle helmets. The danger with those two illustrations is that, more often than not, they only impact the passengers in the car or the riders of the bike. If I was to compare it to anything using that medium (automobiles/bikes) I would say gun control is similar to the speed-limit laws. While those laws affect the driver they also affect everyone else on the road, just as gun laws affect the gun owner but also affect others in the community.
Interestingly enough the federal government doesn’t control speed limits – that power resides with the individual states. Obviously there cannot be a complete corollary but to me the issues seem quite similar. I doubt that those who formed our nation by rebelling against a tyrannically oppressive government would have an issue with the individual states exerting their authority on this issue.
The people who live Montana or Alaska have different views on gun control than those of Massachusetts or Rhode Island and their laws undoubtedly reflect that. Those laws have been debated by citizens of those states inside their legislatures and will most certainly continue to be debated there. More than likely some sort of federal mandate would still be needed on this issue though to ensure that people are not skirting the laws of their home state by purchasing weapons/ammo in a nearby state. Perhaps that is really what the discussion should be about in Washington- the federal government helping states to enforce the laws they created for their own citizens.