I have been wanting to write a post on this topic for a while. I still haven’t put all of my thoughts together on this and perhaps I will write more in the future and try to articulate my thoughts better. But since there is a lot of talk about gun control these days, I thought I would give a brief summary on this topic.
On the subject of the 2nd Amendment, I tend to differ with many libertarians. I agree with most libertarians that peaceful people should not be prevented from owning guns. But when it comes to the 2nd Amendment specifically, I have my own views.
First, I hold no high regard for the U.S. Constitution. It is not a contract of any kind. I didn’t sign it and neither did anyone who is alive today. With that said, I think we would be much better off if the federal government were limited to the specific powers granted in the Constitution.
Second, I believe the 2nd Amendment would be completely unnecessary if the Constitution were actually followed. Article I, Section 8 says nothing about granting Congress the power to regulate firearms or any kind of weapons in any way. So even without a 2nd Amendment, there should be no federal laws regarding gun ownership.
Third, I don’t think the 2nd Amendment prevents state and local governments from regulating guns. The 1st Amendment clearly says “Congress shall make no law…”. It doesn’t say that everyone has a right to free speech. While the 2nd doesn’t explicitly say this, I’m not sure why it would be any different. I understand that many people argue that the 14th Amendment made the Bill of Rights apply to state and local governments. I don’t really like the 14th Amendment for this reason. It is extremely vague and open to interpretation.
I think to say that the 2nd Amendment is clear and that everyone has the right to own a gun is to misinterpret. The federal government should have nothing to do with it. Does that mean that someone in a jail cell should have the right to have a gun? That’s the interpretation of the 2nd Amendment to many gun right advocates. If everyone has the right to a gun, then are we going to start making exceptions for people in jail? I thought the 2nd Amendment was absolute.
This is why I believe that state and local governments still have the authority to make laws regarding guns. I don’t advocate that state and local governments take guns away from peaceful people. But I do not think gun laws by state and local governments are unconstitutional (in regards to the U.S. Constitution). I don’t think it is any of the U.S. Supreme Court’s business to strike down state or local laws regarding guns. It would be appropriate for the U.S. Supreme Court to strike down ALL federal gun laws.
Fourth, I am just not that big of a fan of the word “rights”. Again, I probably differ with many libertarians here. I do recall Harry Browne talking about this subject many years ago on one of his radio shows. While I much prefer the concept of rights as discussed by libertarians, I think the term can be subjective and misleading. You can say you have the right to whatever, but it is only as good as your fellow human beings recognize. You can say that you are born with natural rights, but we know that this isn’t really true. If you are born in a place of tyranny, then your so-called natural rights won’t matter much. You can tell the IRS that you have a natural right to keep the money that you earn as they throw you in jail.
The same goes for “2nd Amendment rights”. In fact, this term is even worse. If you are going to talk about rights, I would rather you talk about “gun ownership rights”. Using the term “2nd Amendment rights” makes it sound like you are granted this right from the 2nd Amendment. You don’t get your rights from the Constitution. You don’t get your rights from the government. The government is supposed to protect your rights. The Constitution is supposed to protect you from government. Beyond these things, they are violating your rights. Your right to own a gun has more to do with the thoughts and opinions of your fellow citizens than it does with the 2nd Amendment.
I don’t mind having discussions about gun control and about the 2nd Amendment, but I really wish that libertarians would stop using the phrase “2nd Amendment rights”. Also, if you are trying to advance gun ownership rights, then don’t advocate new laws. We want to repeal as many laws as possible, starting at the federal level.