In response to the horrible tragedy of the mass shooting in Las Vegas, Nevada, the Left is once again screaming for new gun laws that restrict the ability of innocent people to lawfully defend themselves and exercise their fundamental rights. Ironically, they claim that none of their measures violates the Second Amendment, even though their ideas are unquestionably the kind of thing the Founders opposed.
Writing for Slate, Doug Pennington claims that he has a proposal that will satisfy all sides of the gun debate, one that is not unconstitutional, does not preclude anyone from lawful home defense, and one that will also keep guns out of the hands of evil people.
And what is that solution? A mandatory maximum of two guns per person: no one may own more than two firearms.
Somehow, some way, playing all sorts of mental gymnastics, he claims that this limit on the number of guns a person may own somehow does not qualify as an infringement on the right to bear arms.
The Constitution certainly doesn’t mandate that Americans be allowed to own an unlimited number of guns. In the Second Amendment, a gun enthusiast might latch onto the words “shall not be infringed” and (ironically) “militia,” and argue that any restriction on his ability to possess any gun he wants violates his constitutional rights, while also making it harder to wage war against the government if it becomes tyrannical. Neither of these arguments is persuasive. As Justice Antonin Scalia of all people wrote in Heller, “[T]he right secured by the Second Amendment is not unlimited.” Scalia also justified laws that ban “dangerous and unusual weapons”—such as machine guns—even if such bans make it harder to fight back against a tyrannical government.
Okay, that’s something we’d expect someone who opposes an armed citizenry to say; they will cling to that part of the Heller decision in which Justice Scalia stated that there may be some legitimate regulations regarding arms, such as machine guns, rocket launchers, or other dangerous and unusual weapons (no, that does not include AR-15s, as they are the most commonly-owned rifle in the United States and explicitly fall into the common public use category).
But that aside, Pennington starts to go into totalitarian territory, asking the questions of “how many guns does one need?”
The Second Amendment uses the word arms, plural. There is also compelling 14th Amendment scholarship on the Reconstruction-era history of newly freed slaves, who used guns to defend themselves against racist marauders. But here in 2017, how many firearms does the average American need to competently defend her residence? For whom would, say, a 10-shot semi-automatic pistol and a six-round 12-gauge pump action shotgun not suffice for home defense?
In his assessment, he presumes to know your self-defense needs better than you do. He knows what is comfortable to shoot, what situations you will encounter in this life, how many attackers you may encounter, and what limits are “acceptable” for you to deal with during those times.
Under such a two-guns-per-person law, would anyone be prevented from owning a firearm to defend themselves in their home? Clearly not. Whether or not you agree with this idea, it’s plainly correct that neither the Second Amendment nor any other part of the Constitution stands in the way of policy proposals like this one. There are countless other ideas already in circulation for reducing the horrific toll that gunfire takes on America. What’s lacking is a constant, thunderous groundswell of public demand for these and other strong regulatory steps.
I propose we limit car speeds to 55 mph, reduce the turning radius to 50 ft, make acceleration from 0-60 to be 30 seconds, limit horsepower to 100, tax all that as well, and on top of it continuously make the subject the most divisive issue in the nation.
Sounds ridiculous, right? Well, it will if you appreciate personal freedom, at least. But what’s the main issue here?
Such limits do not take into account the various needs that a person will encounter in day-to-day life. A person may need to rush to the emergency room and can’t get to an ambulance. He/she may need to pull another vehicle out of a position where the occupants are trapped. He/she may even be required to cede control of their vehicle to a law enforcement officer so that he can chase a suspect.
But those regulations do not take such possible circumstances into consideration; they are monolithic, not flexible enough to account for the varying needs that individuals have in their unique lives. The same principle goes for gun ownership, which is also a fundamental right (whereas driving is not), not to mention that fact that fatality rates are exponentially higher for vehicles than for firearms.
A law limiting the number of firearms a person can buy is the exact definition of an infringement. It is not up to another person, especially not government officials, to determine “what someone needs.” That is solely up to that individual. There are very, very few circumstances under which I would justify any law restricting a person from buying most types of weapons, provided that they do not use those weapons to attack another person without just cause (self-defense).
A person may have multiple reasons to own more than two guns. Maybe he/she has multiple residences, and keeps several guns stored at each location as a defensive measure. Do they need to then apply to the government for permission to further exercise their rights? No, a government has no legitimate place in doling out self-defense “permission slips.”
It is true that there is a problem with mass shootings here in the United States. They are more frequent than they were several decades ago, that’s not a fact I’ll dispute. However, the solution to that problem is not to further restrict the already diminished circle of freedoms that citizens have, but to find the root of the issue, and attack it as a society with everything we have.
The issue is not one of inanimate objects, but of toxic hearts. And that’s a problem that simple legislation can’t fix; it will take a larger effort of society, of individuals working together voluntarily to look after and take care of each other. No government action can spur that, but further government action can prevent it — and further exacerbate existing issues.