NEW CASTLE, Pa., Jan. 11, 2016 — The political war between the gun lobby and the gun-control lobby rely on emotion to inflame the struggle to balance civil liberties with national security interests.
Images of helpless Americans unable to defend themselves against armed intruders and government oppression appeal to Second-Amendment groups like the NRA. Proponents of gun-control use images of victims of gun violence and their stories to stir emotions that could support the repeal of the Second Amendment.
While toying with powerful, conflicting emotions, however, neither side has done much to empower the American people by balancing the right to own and bear arms with the need for public safety.
As such, the emotional display of usually stoic President Obama during the unveiling of his Gun Violence Reduction Executive Actions added nothing new to the debate. The president’s policy prescriptions do, however, attempt to balance the interests of the American people instead of simply undermining the Second Amendment.
Even though the president’s overuse of executive actions is problematic and a sad commentary on the dysfunctional state of the legislative branch, his practical approach manages to reframe the debate in favor of gun-control advocates.
Expanding background-check requirements to include virtually all sales and requiring shippers to notify the ATF of lost guns moves the debate away from gun-control policies that limit access to guns to instead raise the cost of buying guns.
In other words, President Obama is attempting to regulate the shadows where criminals obtain their weapons instead of placing additional burdens on law-abiding citizens.
By doing so, the president embraces policies that avoid legitimate Second Amendment objectives in order to earn the support of the American majority who want to be safe from gun violence.
Meanwhile, local, state and federal law enforcement agencies should be sharing information on known criminals. Political ideologues may want to discourage this kind of sharing to retaliate against the Obama administration, but such sharing is a long overdue necessity.
The gun lobby would be wise to follow the [resident’s example. If the gun lobby’s agenda is to preserve the Second Amendment, the U.S. Constitution and the civil liberties afforded to all American citizens under the Constitution, they must do more than simply undermine existing regulation of the gun industry. They can’t just say “no” to any new regulations. They must go beyond the status quo.
In 2010, the Supreme Court affirmed in McDonald v. Chicago that the Second and 14th Amendments protect the right of all U.S. citizens to own and bear arms. One must still be 21 or older to purchase a handgun; the freedoms of minors are truncated due to the need for parental oversight. However, there is no compelling reason to limit the constitutional rights of legal adults based on age.
This is an area where groups like the NRA demonstrated their failure to actually support the Second Amendment.
Whether someone purchases a handgun at 18 or 21 has no impact on their intended use for that gun.
Under the due process clause of the 14th Amendment, however, there is a compelling interest to restrict the gun rights of criminals who have been convicted of violent crimes. Consequently, the gun-lobby can protect the Second Amendment and support policies that restrict the ability of violent criminals to access guns.
A balanced an agenda for the gun lobby should include:
1. Restoring the full Second Amendment Rights of law-abiding citizens who are over 18.
2. Crafting a streamlined process that allows individuals who have had their Second Amendment Rights restricted due to criminal records and mental illness to restore their constitutionally guaranteed rights.
3. Identifying when the government has a compelling state interest to restrict an individual’s Second Amendment rights.
4. Embracing wait periods on sales of shot guns, pistols and automatic guns that can used in a heated moment to cause mass casualities.
5. Embracing more extensive background checks for automatic weapons.
6. Obtaining subsidies for gun safety training as part of a requirement for carrying permits to encourage safe handling of guns.
7. Obtaining subsidies for permitting to alleviate the financial constraints that impede the Second Amendment Rights of the poor.
Unless the gun lobby tackles the need to balance Second Amendment Rights with safety and security concerns, it will lose its ability to shape gun laws.