UPDATE AT BOTTOM OF ARTICLE
In the wake of Las Vegas, the political debate shifted rapidly and predictably back to the Second Amendment. As usual, there are those on the Left demand the “common sense” disarming of the public, and those on the Right claiming that any gun law in an infringement. Both sides sound, to me, like children.
I grew up conservative, and for the most part I consider myself a conservative centrist – a Constitutional Pragmatist, if you will. Second Amendment rights are, I believe, the anchor that secures all our freedom. But to be clear-minded, we must understand not only what the Constitution reads, but what it means as well.
The text of the 2A 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.” Now, a revisionist reading of this text, championed by the likes of Hillary Clinton, interprets this to refer to sporting and hunting (a reading that ignores the entire first clause.) A most honest reading recognizes that the right of the people to keep and bear arms refers directly to the necessity of a military and police force to keep order – that is, out of fear of government oppression, the people must maintain the means to resist.
There are plenty of resources to examine this debate, and I will not add to that noise. I will, however, address two things: bump-fire stocks, and the greater issue of risk and reward.
First, there are those on the Right that have decried the NRA for asking the ATF to consider banning bump-fire stocks. For those of you who do not know, a bump-fire stock essentially uses the recoil of the weapon to cause the shooter to pull the trigger repeatedly. It doesn’t make the weapon fully-automatic, but it does cause the weapon to fire rapidly. It is unreliable, inaccurate, and while it was moderately effective in Las Vegas due to the density of victims, I can’t see it functioning as a weapon of war. The only purpose the system has is to waste ammunition as a novelty, or target large masses of people.
My question for the Right is this: if the purpose of the 2A is to resist the potential of an oppressive government, then how does the bump-fire stock serve that purpose? President Obama actually made a good point on this. In a town hall meeting in June 2016, he points out that auto fatality rates were greatly reduced through the passage of seat belt laws, child restraint laws, DUI enforcement, and other traffic measures. His proposals, he argues, only seek to increase the safety of the public, without infringing on the rights of the people. Here’s the video:
Now, I believe that Obama’s proposed measures are in fact an infringement, and are dangerous in that they would prevent the people from effectively resisting if necessary and in many cases defending themselves in ordinary situations – but that doesn’t make him wrong about the general principle. In fact, bump-fire stocks are a very good example. They serve no legitimate military purpose – they serve no legitimate sporting purpose, except to burn ammunition in a haphazard manner – and restricting those items would not challenge the core of the 2A in the least. The use of bump-fire stocks is akin to the use of low quality optics, or airsoft accessories attached to real weapons. They may make a small man feel big for a moment, but they have no real function.
As far as I’m concerned, the Right would do well to take a step back and consider if this is a hill worth dying on. The NRA apparently recognizes the true nature of the bump-fire stock – frivolous at best, and murderous at worst. If there is to be legitimacy surrounding the 2A debate, the Right must not debase itself with irrational and inconsistent claims. We have seen the frothing panic of the Left time and time again. Will we be different? Or are we just as insipid, but with different loyalties?
Perhaps I spoke too soon. Today, nine Republican Congressmen co-sponsored a bill, called the Curbelo-Moulton Bill, to ban “rate increasing devices.” I want to be clear: under existing law, I am not greatly upset by the ATF examining and possibly regulating bump-stocks in particular, given that they are gimmicky and serve no real purpose outside of play. However, the bill presented is wildly irresponsible and vague, and the Constitution has no provisions whatsoever for Congress to pass a law that bans a firearm accessory on the basis of an isolated event. Such a law is unequivocally an infringement.
Current gun laws are common-sense – there are reasonable limitations placed on violent criminals and the mentally unstable, and the background checks system is largely fair – with the exception of the asinine “gun-free zone” concept, while I may not approve of various laws surrounding firearms, I can at least understand how they are a reasonable compromise between the two perspectives. However, there is NO justification for increased measured to control and regulate firearms, and I am of the firm opinion that to push further gun control – especially in the form of a bill that is vague and ripe for bureaucratic abuse – is unacceptable, and is an infringement on our basic rights are self-determinate citizens.