Recently, I have heard politicians talking about what they consider to be “reasonable restrictions” on gun rights. These restrictions are often anything but reasonable, so I thought it would be a good exercise to compare what society would be like if we treated other fundamental rights the same way that the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution’s right to keep and bear arms is treated:
The Text and Meaning of the Second Amendment
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.”
This plain language guarantees the individual right to keep and bear arms.
How The Second Amendment is Being Violated Nowadays:
Like all rights, it is subject to reasonable restriction, but a complete or near complete denial of a right is not a reasonable restriction. Just as it is reasonable for the government to ban yelling “fire” in crowded theater and not violate the first amendment, the government can ban the possession of nuclear weapons or artillery without violating the second amendment.
However, the current trend of trying to ban standard capacity magazines, ban certain cosmetic features of guns, or to ban guns that are effective for self defense aren’t reasonable restrictions. Neither is the ban on effective self defense ammunition.
Compare with the First Amendment Right to Free Speech:
The first amendment states “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”
Simply put, this guarantees the rights of free speech and religious freedom.
It would not be considered a “reasonable restriction” if the government were to enact a ban on speaking in public, citing to the way some people use words to commit crimes, but this is analogous to banning the mere possession of a gun in public.
It would not be constitutional for the government to limit the number of books a person can buy in a month, but this is analogous to the one gun per month limits that are coming up in legislative chambers these days.
Similarly, the government could not impose a 30 day waiting period before a person is allowed to join a church, under the guise of preventing suicide cults. That is analogous to the long waiting periods (which are considerably longer than it takes to do a background check) for gun purchases proposed or required in some areas.
Compare with the Fourth Amendment Right to Be Free From Unreasonable Search & Seizure
The fourth amendment states “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”
This means, in simple terms, that the government can’t just search you or your property, arrest you, or take your property without the sufficient level of suspicion that you have done something illegal. That necessary level of suspicion would take a lot longer to explain and qualify than there is room for here, but it is a reasonably strong protection.
It would not be considered a reasonable restriction on the fourth amendment if the government were to decide that, for the good of the community and the children, warrants are not needed in the inner city. This is analogous to Chicago’s ban on handguns. Nor would it be reasonable for a relatively affluent and low crime suburb of a crime filled city to show solidarity by also declaring that warrants are not needed. This is analogous to the Oak Park, IL handgun ban.
Compare with the Fifth Amendment Right to Not Incriminate One’s Self, Due Process, Etc.
The fifth amendment states “No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.”
This amendment provides for indictment by grand jury, the right to not incriminate one’s self, the right to due process, and the right to not be tried twice for the same crime, among other things.
It would violate the fifth amendment right to not incriminate one self if the government were to declare that because kidnapping is such a bad crime, suspected kidnappers must answer all questions asked of them by the police. That is analogous to laws that prohibit law abiding citizens with concealed carry permits from defending themselves, since keeping even law abiding citizen defenseless and unarmed in universities is somehow thought to protect them, even know history shows otherwise.
I could go on listing further constitutional rights, along with analogous restrictions on them that would be unreasonable, but I believe my point should be clear by now. The Second Amendment is a fundamental individual right, just like the other rights that comprise the United States Bill of Rights. As such, restrictions on the rights of the citizens to keep and bear arms must be reasonable, not just underhanded ways of taking away the right by slowly eroding it into nothingness.
Also, note that having gun rights help to protects our other civil rights.