from the Congress Action newsletter

Gun Control Illogic

by: Kim Weissman
February 13, 2000

Democrats believe they have a winning election issue — the final destruction of the Second Amendment — with which to keep the presidency, regain the House, and maybe even the Senate. But they remain stymied by the factual evidence that gun control laws do not curb crime, that law abiding citizens use firearms to deter crimes far more often than criminals use firearms to commit crimes, that criminals are not deterred by gun control laws, and that the Founders really meant exactly what they wrote in the Second Amendment. So the left is trotting out a host of arguments that they hope will fool enough people into voting for them; arguments that, when followed to their logical conclusions, make no sense at all.

"We register cars and license drivers to drive, don’t we? So we should license all gun owners and register all guns."

From the outset, this analogy is flawed. Privileges granted to us by the government may be licensed, but our Constitutional rights are not government-granted privileges, and cannot be circumscribed by requiring government permission to exercise them. No right to drive a car is found in the Constitution, while the right to keep and bear arms is specifically protected by the Bill of Rights.

But follow the argument to its logical conclusion: We don’t have to be licensed to buy a car, nor does that car have to be registered to be bought. We only have to be licensed and the car registered if we want to drive that car on a public road. Anyone can buy any type of vehicle from anyone else, and anyone can drive that vehicle on his own property. There is no need for a license or registration as long as that vehicle stays on private property. So by applying the "logic" of this argument to firearms, we must conclude that anyone can buy any type of firearm at all, and keep and use that weapon on his own property without registering it and without being licensed.

Are the gun-banners willing to accept that? Not even democrats have enough audacity to pretend that criminals will register their guns, so only law abiding people will comply with license and registration mandates.

"The Founders were talking about 18th century flintlocks, not modern high capacity firearms. So the only firearms which are protected are those available when the Constitution was ratified."

To which the response is two-fold. The Founders permitted the private ownership of the most advanced weaponry available at the time. [Or, state-of-the-art.]  By the same logic, we should also be permitted to own the most advanced weaponry of our time.

Additionally, consider the "privateers" of the 18th century. They were private ship owners who, during the Revolution, were commissioned by the Continental Congress to install cannon on their ships and attack British merchant shipping. How would today’s gun-grabbers, who get hysterical whenever anyone suggests that people be permitted to own an "assault weapon", react to the idea that we be permitted to buy a cannon with live ammunition (or, for that matter, even a functioning Revolutionary War era field-piece)?

Now let’s apply the "logic" of this technology-based argument to other Constitutional rights. How did the Founders exercise their rights under the First Amendment? They printed newspapers (no radio or television, of course) with hand-operated printing presses in which the type was set by manually, one letter or one word at a time from trays of letters. ABC, NBC, CBS, CNN, sorry, you’re out of business. As for the New York Times and the Washington Post, time to get rid of your word processors and electronic printing presses. Hand-set type in a hand operated printing press only, please. And get rid of all those gasoline-burning trucks used to deliver your newspapers. You can convert the garage space that those trucks now occupy into stables for your new "fleet" of horse-drawn wagons. And of course the jump back to the 18th century cannot be limited to the media.

How many of the gun-banners would like to see the scope and reach of the federal government cut back to 18th century levels, accompanied by the prompt abolition of a whole plethora of federal departments and agencies that have no legitimacy under a Constitutionally limited republic?

Prisoner-rights advocates better get ready for some changes as well. The death penalty was well used in colonial times, and those authorities weren’t much concerned with making the execution less traumatic for the convicted murderer. Forget lethal injections. Under the "logic" of this argument, prisons will start rebuilding their gallows, and reconstituting and training firing squads. Using 18th century flintlocks, perhaps.

"Even if we accept that the Founders wanted the people in the 18th century to be armed so they would be able to overthrow a tyrannical government if necessary, it is silly to think that private citizens or back-woods militias, armed with personal weapons, could deter an modern military force.

Several times in this century, poorly equipped – but armed – Third World countries decisively defeated the world’s most advanced military powers. Armed predominantly with hand-held personal weapons, and often using tactics more suited to the Stone Age than to the 20th century, the peasants of Vietnam managed to evict from their country first Japan, then France, and finally the United States. And the nomads of Afghanistan managed to do the same to the Soviet Union.

All of the high tech weaponry inflicted fearsome losses on the enemy; but it was, in the end, the determination of the poorly armed peasants that prevailed. But primarily, remember the example that those who wrote the Bill of Rights were intimately familiar with: the American colonists, relatively untrained and poorly armed farmers and shopkeepers, waged war against the most advanced, best trained, and best equipped military machine of that time: the British Empire. And won.

If we truly believe that Thomas Jefferson actually meant what he said when he observed that "The strongest reason for the people to retain the right to keep and bear arms is, as a last resort, to protect themselves against tyranny in government", and if we also believe that a population cannot defend itself against a modern military with only personal weapons, then that is, if anything, an argument for a far better armed civilian population, not for a totally disarmed civilian population. How many of the Chinese civilians massacred by their own government in Tiananmen Square would not have died if they had been armed? How many more Jews would have survived the Holocaust if every Jew met the midnight knock on the door by the Nazi death squads with a gun?

"People may keep rifles and shotguns for hunting or sport. But if they want to own handguns, let them join the National Guard, which is the reason the Second Amendment was written in the first place."

If there is a single instance of any of the Founders writing that the purpose of the Second Amendment was to protect hunting or sport only, that writing has not yet been found. What does exist, however, is an extraordinary number of writings by the Founders, in addition to many of the original constitutions enacted by the States, that defined the right to keep and bear arms as an individual right necessary for the defense of self and of the State.

An unbroken series of federal and Supreme Court decisions, as well as Constitutional scholars, has determined that the right to keep and bear arms is an individual right, not a right belonging to the State.

Further, the idea that the Second Amendment was written to protect only the National Guard is simply silly. The Second Amendment was ratified in 1791, and the National Guard as a modern institution in which members did not own their own weapons was not formed until fully 90 years later. The whole point of the Bill of Rights was to protect individual rights against government encroachment. When the Tenth Amendment referred to State's rights, it did so specifically, as distinguished from "the people" (the exact same phrase used in the Second Amendment).

Finally, let’s see what a liberal Constitutional scholar has to say about gun control and the Second Amendment:

"Most advocates of gun control have argued that the 'right to bear arms' can reach no further than the Second Amendment's preamble, which calls a 'well-regulated Militia . . . necessary to the security of a free State.' They conclude that the amendment shields only state militias like today's National Guard from Federal authority. According to these people, the rights of individuals to self-defense or to private gun ownership are not constitutionally protected at all. But the Second Amendment reference to the people's 'right' to be armed cannot be trumped by the Amendment's preamble." – Lawrence Tribe (Harvard Law School professor)

And the United States Supreme Court, United States v. Verdugo-Urquidez; 494 U.S. 259 (1990):

"…the people' seems to have been a term of art employed in select parts of the Constitution. The Preamble declares that the Constitution is ordained and established by 'the people of the United States.' The Second Amendment protects 'the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, and the Ninth and Tenth Amendments provide that certain rights and powers are retained by and reserved to 'the people.' While this textual exegesis is by no means conclusive, it suggests that 'the people' protected by the Fourth Amendment, and by the First and Second Amendments, and to whom rights and powers are reserved in the Ninth and Tenth Amendments, refers to a class of persons who are part of a national community or who have otherwise developed sufficient connection with this country to be considered part of that community."

In other words, individuals, not the National Guard, not States.

Despite all their mental gyrations, the gun banners are faced with one irrefutable fact that they cannot deny, and that they therefore prefer to simply ignore. No matter how many laws they pass, criminals will always be armed, because criminals, by definition, do not obey the laws. Anyone who denies that fact has lost touch with reality.

Look at the example of illegal drugs. If simply passing laws solved the problem, there would be no illegal drug use in this country, nor would the stuff be smuggled into our country and circulated on our streets by the ton. After the gun ban totalitarians have disarmed the people willing to obey their laws, how do they propose to disarm the criminals?

Listen to Sammy "The Bull" Gravano, whose testimony convicted John Gotti: "Gun control? It's the best thing you can do for crooks and gangsters. I want you to have nothing. If I’m a bad guy, I'm always gonna have a gun. Safety locks? You will pull the trigger with a lock on, and I'll pull the trigger. We'll see who wins."

Criminals actually like gun control laws. It is easy to understand why criminals prefer their victims defenseless, but why are gun-grabbing leftists are so intent on helping criminals? But gun ban totalitarians don't care about the practical consequences of their policies. Gun control sounds good, it makes them feel good, and they don't care how many innocent victims result from their dangerous schemes. The suffering of those innocents is irrelevant to left-wing gun ban extremists, the politically correct media, and pandering politicians. But the blood of those victims remains an indelible stain on their hands.

In the end, this fight isn't about facts or logic, it isn't about safety or accidental injuries or crime control. This fight is about the exercise of tyrannical power by those on the left who despise individual liberty and free choice, and who — despite all their blather about tolerance and diversity — will tolerate no deviation from their vision of how people should behave, and who spew venom against anyone who disagrees with that vision. In their pursuit of power, they have already gone a long way toward destroying the Constitution, and now they are driving to finally put an end to lawful gun ownership in America.



Bureau of Justice Statistics Crime Data Brief:

National Institute of Justice Research in Brief:

United States v. Verdugo-Urquidez; 494 U.S. 259 (1990):

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13 feb 2000