I always find it curious to see the lengths that gun control states are willing to go to limit the full reach of the Second Amendment, and how uninformed many state and federal officials are concerning the purpose of the 2nd Amendment: To allow citizens the ability to protect themselves from the government, and to allow citizens the opportunity to protect themselves when the government fails to protect them.
As Thomas Jefferson said,“What country can preserve its liberties if their rulers are not warned from time to time that their people preserve the spirit of resistance. Let them take arms.” (Thomas Jefferson, letter to William S. Smith, 1787).
So, with the tyranny of King George III fresh and in the forefront of their minds, the Founders intended the 2nd Amendment to limit the government’s power to restrict weapons, not the citizens’ right to possess weapons, weapons which may be necessary to protect themselves from the government.
Let’s recall that the Supreme Court has not directly addressed the issue of gun rights since its landmark rulings in 2008 and 2010. The 2008 Heller decision held that the right to keep and bear arms was both a collective (military and law enforcement) right as well as an individual right. The 2010 McDonald decision simply held that the Due Process Clause of the 14th Amendment extended to the states and municipalities the 2nd Amendment’s right to keep and bear arms.
Pending now is another example of this effort to limit gun rights in the case of New York State Rifle and Pistol Association v. Bruen.
In New York, it is very difficult for a typical law-abiding citizen to bear a firearm for personal defense. Openly carrying a handgun is banned and, with only a few exceptions, such as for judges and prison workers, getting a concealed-carry license requires demonstrating “proper cause.”
Well, as the Wall Street Journal and many others have pointed out “proper cause” has been interpreted to exclude “a generalized desire for protection.” Rather, applicants must show a “special need” for defense, beyond that of the general community or of persons engaged in the same profession.” (I note that with the government’s apparent inability—and in some cases, unwillingness—to protect its citizens from a skyrocketing crime rate in many cities, the need for citizens to be able to protect themselves has never been more important.)
Do we see the burden this imposes upon a normal New Yorker trying to possess a firearm? What this really means is that if I have a job that requires me to walk through a rough part of town to get home, I can’t have a gun—because all I have is a generalized desire for protection. It also does not matter whether I have a clean record or even significant firearm training. What’s completely bonkers is that the very reason the Framers included the 2nd Amendment in the Constitution was to allow each and every one of us to address our “generalized desire for protection of our individual lives!”
What this can be reduced to is that in New York some law-abiding individuals may carry a gun while other similarly situated citizens may not. How can that possibly be justified? Simply because some bureaucrat decided that the first individual’s fear was “particularized” and the second was “generalized”? Sorry. It doesn’t work that way.
Again, the Second Amendment is a limitation on Government’s power to regulate weapons, not on the citizen’s right to possess weapons, and it absolutely does not allow for some random, faceless, government official to decide for me, a private law-abiding citizen, when I’m allowed under the U.S. Constitution to possess and bear a firearm.
I’ll close with the words of President John F. Kennedy, words that are today even more true than when he spoke them, which make clear that the right to keep and bear arms is not only our right under the Constitution, but our duty as modern day Minute Men:
“Today we need a nation of minute men; citizens who are not only prepared to take up arms, but citizens who regard the preservation of freedom as a basic purpose of their daily life and who are willing to consciously work and sacrifice for that freedom. The cause of liberty, the cause of America, cannot succeed with any lesser effort.” (http://wafflesatnoon.com/jfk-second-amendment/).
In keeping with our gun rights topic, I can’t resist sharing a development this week. New Jersey truck driver, Edward Durr, spent $153 dollars and, in an upset for the ages, defeated Steve Sweeney, New Jersey Senate President and the longest-serving legislative leader in state history. Mr. Durr ran because he was frustrated he was denied a concealed carry permit despite having a clean record. This is what happens when we stand up!.
Royal Alexander is a Shreveport attorney