In discussing Second Amendment issues with other gun rights advocates, I have sometimes encountered an attitude along the lines of, "Why even argue about this? If they don't like it, they should try and repeal it."
I am actually sympathetic to this point of view because the Second Amendment speaks for itself. Regardless of what anyone thinks about gun ownership, our right to keep and bear arms is legally guaranteed by this amendment. In theory, repealing it is the only way that anyone can address this right legitimately.
Theory and reality are often quite different, though. Many disagree with the constitutionality of gun control, but gun-control advocates have succeeded in getting legislation passed that most certainly infringes on the right of the people to keep and bear arms.
The National Firearms Act of 1934 placed strict limits on the transfer of automatic weapons, short-barreled rifles and shotguns, suppressors, and destructive devices such as grenades or missiles. The Firearm Owners Protection Act of 1986, though it established some laws to protect the rights of gun owners, also placed additional regulations on fully automatic firearms, consequently causing their prices to rise far above what the average person can afford. The Federal Assault Weapons Ban of 1994 prohibited the transfer of a wide range of semi-automatic rifles, pistols and shotguns for a 10-year period before expiring in 2004.
States and municipalities have imposed even heavier limitations on Second Amendment rights. Maryland, a "may-issue state" for concealed-carry licenses, issues licenses only to those who can demonstrate a specific need to carry a firearm. As a result, licenses are granted to hardly anyone, including many active-duty military members and veterans with honorable discharges. The District of Columbia is one of the most difficult areas in the nation to purchase a firearm legally, and carrying one is out of the question for all but law enforcement personnel.
In fact, most states have at least some laws that infringe upon the right to keep and bear arms. Yet the Second Amendment has not been repealed. It has not been modified. In case you disagree with the premise that this right has been infringed, consider some of your other rights. Would you consider the right to free speech to be infringed if you had to obtain a permit to say what you wanted? What if there were entire cities or states where you were not allowed to practice your religion? What if you had the right to trial by jury only when you paid a federal excise tax? Why are these things acceptable when applied to the Second Amendment?
In every case of infringement, the legislative bodies responsible for the decision to pass these laws apparently have sided with the arguments against the right to keep and bear arms. It may stand to reason that these individuals may not want to hear the arguments for them, but it is our responsibility as a freedom-loving people to exercise our First Amendment right in protection of our Second.
That is not the only reason to maintain our side of the public discussion. Though there is not enough serious political support to effectively repeal the Second Amendment right now, there could be some day. If arguments are heard only from gun-control advocates, their views will slowly sway public opinion. If the only rebuttal to "Guns kill people, and they are evil," is "If you don't like it, then repeal it," then the long-term effect will be diminishing support for the Second Amendment.
This fundamental right may not be at stake tomorrow or even a few years from now, but it is up to us to make sure our children and their children are born with the same rights that we enjoy. The discussion will take place - whether or not we participate.
Paul Brown, a veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom who served in the Marine Corps for five years, writes about Second Amendment rights at why2a.blogspot.com.
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