“[S]hall not be infringed.”
These are the last four words of Amendment II of the Bill of Rights — a right that our forefathers thought was so important that only freedom of speech was more important. But as always after horrific acts of violence the cry goes out for “infringement” of the right to keep and bear arms by law-abiding and freedom-loving individuals. As always, the thought is that surely we can do something, anything, to stop evil. Actually all we do is tie one hand behind the backs of law-abiding citizens while congratulating ourselves for having just done something about gun violence.
Many of these individuals are sincere, if misguided. Many are opportunistic politicians trying to gain political capital. Keep in mind, not a single one of the gun control restrictions being proposed would have stopped the last three shootings. They are nothing more than resurrected and hackneyed gun control agendas. We have enough gun control laws; they just have to be enforced. Individuals are already required to have a criminal background check to purchase a firearm. In 2017 there were 112,000 purchase denials because people were in forbidden categories. The ATF investigated 12,700 of these cases. Twelve were prosecuted.
Now let’s clarify something: There is no evidence of an epidemic of mass shootings. The number of mass shootings has remained steady since 1966. Northeastern University criminologist James Alan Fox, the leading researcher on the topic for the past 35 years, states “There is no evidence that we are in the midst of an epidemic of mass shootings.” It is the media coverage of shootings that ends up creating a false sense that gun homicides — which is at or near historic lows, according to Pew Reserach — is ubiquitous and growing. This is not to minimize the tragedies, it is just fact. The number of firearms has doubled over the past two decades and violent crime involving guns has declined.
Should we look for ways to minimize the tragedies? Of course. But firearm registration and/or confiscation will not be tolerated. It will be met by resistance. It would be shredding of the Constitution. Bans on high-capacity magazines and semi-auto rifles did not decrease gun-related violence. Clinton’s DOJ confirmed this. In 2016, rifles (of all types) were used in only 2.6% of firearm related murders. “We must act now” is not a gun control policy and doing “something” is better than doing nothing is not an argument.
Our Founders through the Second Amendment (and 14th Amendment-1868) absolutely intended to guarantee citizens the right to carry firearms for personal protection. And no, it was not just for the militia or only for “muskets.” To argue such would be to say that freedom of the press is only for printed word since radio, television or the internet didn’t exist in their times. They certainly didn’t conceive that a free person would have to have the permission of a state government, much less the federal government, to bear arms. Every right has its costs, but the alternatives are often more dire.
“Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.”-Benjamin Franklin.
Mike Muterspaugh lives in Harrisonburg.