Gun owners across America weren’t surprised last week when the new U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder stated the intent of the Obama administration to renew the expired ban on sales of “assault weapons.” The proposed ban was part of the agenda announced during Obama’s campaign, and now the head of the Department of Justice appears to be making it a priority. Whether or not a ban renewal will pass in Congress is questionable, as similar bills in 2007 and 2008 never made it out of subcommittee. Nevertheless, Americans must recognize the ban as a significant infringement of the Second Amendment.
A government that transgresses the core rights affirmed in the Bill of Rights is one to be feared. The right to keep and bear arms was recognized by the Founding Fathers as one that enabled them to win the Revolutionary War. One of the acts of aggression against the colonists by the British authorities was the confiscation of arms and ammunition from local militias and individuals. Father of the Bill of Rights George Mason knew disarmament posed a significant threat to liberty. At the Virgina convention to ratify the U.S. Constitution, Mason said, “When the resolution of enslaving America was formed in Great Britain, the British Parliament was advised by an artful man, who was governor of Pennsylvania, to disarm the people; that it was the best and most effectual way to enslave them; but that they should not do it openly, but weaken them, and let them sink gradually.”
The ban on arms sales equals a gradual weakening of the liberty and fundamental rights of the American people. The proposed ban comes in the wake of the Supreme Court ruling last year in the case of District of Columbia v. Heller that states ownership is an individual right, not a collective one.
The Second Amendment states, “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.” Gun control advocates interpret the amendment’s wording so that the right of arms only applies to government-sponsored armed forces, but this interpretation fails on several points.
The Second Amendment only affirms a pre-existing right retained by the people; it does not provide for anything new such as a specific armed force. The Ninth Amendment provides for the basic right affirmed by the Second. The Founding Fathers acknowledged many times their belief of individual arms ownership as a basic human right, and now the right is affirmed through case law in Heller.
US Code defines the militia as both organized in the form of the National Guard and unorganized in the form of able-bodied males between the ages of 17 and 45. This implies that these groups must arm themselves to adequately serve their function as militia. American patriot Patrick Henry said of this, “Everyone who is able may have a gun.”
What kind of guns peoples buy is the chief point of the previous and proposed ban on the sale of assault weapons. The mere definition of what constitutes an assault weapon is purely a matter of perspective of the gun control advocates. Firearms capable of continuous automatic fire are not covered in the ban, as they are tightly regulated by the National Firearms Act of 1934. Rather, the ban would seek to oppose firearms based mostly on non-functional aspects such as stock shape when unable to identify the gun by name. Gun aficionados have a tongue-in-cheek name for these types of guns so abhorred by the anti-gun lobby: “evil black guns.” Really, many of the firearms are targeted based upon appearances and the modern materials and techniques of arms construction.
The quality of arms available to the militia must be on par with those of a standing army for tyrants to feel truly threatened. Limits upon the modernity of weapons available for people to purchase effectively weakens the strength of the militia to defend against tyranny, both foreign and domestic, and therefore weakens the intent of the Second Amendment, which serves as the safeguard to all the others.
In the event that the Republic becomes an oligarchy, the right to keep and bear arms enables the people to overthrow the oppression of a non-representative government.
Even Mahatma Gandhi recognized the importance an armed populace had upon a government that served the will of its people. In “An Autobiography,” Gandhi stated, “Among the many misdeeds of British rule in India, history will look upon the Act of depriving a whole nation of arms as the blackest.” The mere state of armament deters violence by both parties.
If America truly believes we will never need to assert our right to keep and bear arms and that guns cause more harm than good, gun control advocates should work for repeal of the Second Amendment, rather than chisel away at the Bill of Rights. Such dilution of rights only sets a precedent for nullification of other ensured rights.
Yet the Second Amendment will not fall easily. America has a history steeped in the tradition of gun ownership, and many of our representatives recognize this right as important to their constituents. The belief in this right transcends party lines. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has declared opposition to reinstating the assault weapons ban, as have several other prominent Democratic senators and congressmen. In response to Holder’s statements, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) said, “I think we need to enforce the laws we have right now.”
Should a new assault weapons ban proposal come up in Congress, please join me in opposing this needless and unconstitutional regulation. Congress has more pressing concerns at the moment than limiting our fundamental rights.
Colin McKim is an environmental management and protection junior and a Mustang Daily political columnist.