Most items in the Constitution’s original Bill of Rights – especially freedom of speech, press and exercise of religion — have been the subject of many clarifying cases decided by the U.S. Supreme Court. Remarkably, the right of the people to keep and bear arms has not received the same expansive judicial scrutiny.
The reason is simple – the Second Amendment has historically been considered by lawmakers and the public to be clear and unassailable: citizens individually have the right to own and use firearms for self-defense, and they have a collective obligation to be proficient in their use as a bulwark against invasion, insurrection and tyranny. Until the Federal Assault Weapons Ban narrowly passed Congress and was signed into law in 1994, there had never been a serious government effort to circumscribe that right. The ban was approved only because it was sold as a gun-control trial with a 10-year sunset provision. With no evidence that it had done anything to reduce gun violence, Congress declined to renew the ban and it expired.
After that expiration, the anti-gun lobby turned up pressure on the states. Thirty years ago any adult in Connecticut could walk into a local department store, put down some cash and, without any background check, walk out with what would now be considered an illegal assault weapon in this state. Excessive state regulation finally led to landmark Second Amendment cases reaching the Supreme Court, including District of Columbia v Heller (2008) and McDonald v City of Chicago (2010). In both cases the court ordered excessive local restrictions on gun ownership to be lifted because they violated the civil right to keep and bear arms.
There continues to be no evidence that such a ban would have any effect on the murder rate – rifles kill fewer Americans every year than fists and feet, and knives kill far more — but the effort to ban weapons with high-capacity magazines is now relentless. All the 2020 Democrat candidates for president listed it as a high priority, and two recent multiple-victim shootings in Georgia and Colorado have brought the issue to a rolling boil once again.
Anti-gun Democrats obsess about legal AR-15s and intermittent high-profile shootings with such weapons, but they seem oblivious to the illegal handgun carnage taking place in American cities. They rail against the former but treat the latter as if it were just an unfortunate reality. Why?
The Founders, having lived under King George III’s effort to disarm the colonists before the Revolution, understood that tyranny can only be prevented by an armed population. Would-be tyrants, intent on tearing apart a country, redesigning it and using technology to control every aspect of daily life, understand that as well.
Martin Fey is a member of the Quiet Corner Tea Party Patriots.