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Local laws and freedom(firearms)

    I will deal in more detail with the right to keep and bear arms in a seprate essay, but here I wish to show the slow infringement of local laws upon this right, and why this should raise alarm even among the anti gun forces. Unlike the matters of abortion, or slavery, the matter of firearms ownership is dealt with directly by the constitution. The second amendment guarantees us this right. Interestingly, every time this matter has reached the Supreme Court, the decision rendered has always been to uphold firearms rights. In more recent times, however, the Supreme Court has simply refused to hear the cases. Unfortunately, as our government leadership has become less representative of us, and more of a class in itself, less trust has been placed within the electorate. So that in cases, like those involving the second amendment, where the duty is plain but there is no desire to do this duty, the matter is simply left unaddressed. Once again the Supreme Court has left a very controversial and polarizing matter to the states.
    The Bill of Rights, and the Supreme Court would seem to be taylor made to defeat initiatives like the anti gun movement. Here we have a simple matter of a Constitutional amendment which states that the right to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed. The word infringed indicates that this is an absolute right which must not be interfered with, period. It does not state that there should be some sort of gun ownership allowed, or that as long as the government allows us to own some types of firearms, that the terms of the Constitution are met. In several states, the ownership of so called assault rifles is outlawed. In some larger cities, and a few small towns, the ownership of pistols is against the law, or else so heavily regulated and interefered with that it is for all practical purposes against the law. In cases like this, the Supreme court has refused to hear the arguments, stating that the second amendment should only apply to the federal government. It would be interesting to see what the reaction would be to applying the same standards to the protection of the first, or for that matter of the fifth amendments. Using this same logic applied to the first amendment, we would have local and state governments disallowing the printing of certain types of articles. We would also have a tightly regulated readership where it would be illegal for citizens of certain localities to read or posses certain types of literature. This would also mean that a device like a mimeograph machine or a Xerox machine, or even a computer with a printer, would be highly regulated, and closely watched. In many states where the press was not outright banned, people who wished to follow the news would have to apply for a special permit so that they could be a licensed reader, and the same restrictions would apply to television and the radio, since they too have declared themselves to be part of the press. The members of the anti press movement would point to all of the trouble and controversy caused by the improper use of reading materials. We may be told that the many types of printed material are not suitable for recreational use, and that only the military, the government, and certain individuals who can show need and are properly licensed, should have access to them.
    I agree that the preceding sounds silly, or even a bit paranoid, but a look at the gun laws around the nation will show that this is exactly what has happened to the Second Amendment. So I must ask, even the anti gunners, how does the Second Amendment differ from any of the others, and if we allow this to happen to the any of the amendments, what protection does the Bill of Rights give us? The Bill of Rights was specifically written to protect and guarantee the rights of the individual against threats from whatever source. These rights were referred to in the preamble as being inalienable, so that a threat to them from any quarter would be unacceptable.
    One argument that is often used in defense of gun laws, is that the Second Amendment, as it makes reference to the militia, only applies to the National Guard. This is plainly untrue, and a reading of the Federalist Papers, written by the framers of the Constitiution, or of many of the Supreme Court decisions in defense of the Second Amendment will reveal what the Constitutional definition of the Militia is. There are many differnt wordings, but all indicate that the militia is the whole of the adult population. This definition is what allows the government to institute a draft in times of need, and to deputize citizens. It is also an indication of the original hopes of the founding fathers that the military as well as the political power of the nation ought to be composed of the citizenry, rather than of a unique upper class. This would be only fitting in a government of and by the people.
    Though the Supreme Court has largely delegated the making of firearms laws to the states, there have been several major sets of federal laws which they have been remiss in their duty by letting past. The first was the National Firearms Act of 1934. This was pushed through by FDR, after threatening to change the composition of the Supreme Court if they allowed it to be challenged. This blatantly unconstitutional law placed restrictions on fully automatic arms, short barreled shotguns (under 18" barrel), stockless rifles, pistols with buttstocks added, and rifles with barrels under 16". Why this arbitrary assortment of guns was considered to be dangerous is beyond me. With the exception of the machine guns, none of these classes of weapons is particularly threatening. The NFA of 1934 also restricts the use and ownership of silencers. As with all gun legislation this was claimed to be an anti crime rather than an anti gun bill.
    There was also the Gun Control Act of 1968. The GCA of 68 banned the importation of certain small pistols, and more closely regulated the operations of gun dealers. In particular, this bill required that all new gun purchases be made through a dealer, and that no individual may order a gun through the mail, or buy a pistol outside of his own state except through a local dealer. Interestingly, most of the domestic firearms manufacturers supported this bill because they saw it as a protectionist act, keeping small, cheap, foreign guns out of their market. The GCA of 68 is not as blatantly unconstitutional as the NFA of 34, but it would still qualify as an infringement. As a comparison, I wonder what our friends on the other side would say if these same restrictions were placed on the press, or better yet, on one of the pet issues of the left, abortion. Applying these same laws to abortion would mean that you could not have an abortion outside of your home state, and would thus be bound by your state laws. It would also mean that for certain types of abortions, you would have to pay a high tax (like the transfer tax enacted for automatic weapons), It would also mean that only certain doctors in certain clinics would be able to perform these operations, and that the number of doctors and clinics could never be added to (like the cut off date for automatic weapons). In applying these standards to the First Amendment, we might expect things like reading taxes, restrictions on transporting publications from one state to another, special use laws regarding color and broadcast media, and who knows what else. Of course there would be stiff fines and prison sentences for any violations.
    I am obviously pro gun, but regardless of this, it seems as if dangerous precedents are being set as regards the inviolate nature of the Bill of Rights, and of our protections under it. The proper way way to approach this would be to repeal the Second Amendment. Since it is obvious that this will never happen, shortcuts are being taken which endanger the entire ideal of our country being under the Constitiution. It should be noted that there has been a desperate effort of late to pass state laws restricting magazine capacities, and banning so called assault rifles. The idea would seem to be to get these local laws passed while the temporary ban is still in effect so that local pro gun forces will see little advantage in preventing their passage. This has already happened in California, and New Jersey. The hope is that when the ban ends in 2004, there will be so many local bans along the same lines that there will be little reason seen to fight the passage of a nation wide ban. This divide and conquer strategy is nothing new. Of course the people who are doing this will say that this matter trancends the importance of our legal form of governmnent. They will tell us that it will be worth the effort if it saves the life of only one child, or as it has been said in the past by those who had no patience for achieveing their goals within the frame work of the law, "the end justifies the means."