The argument that your access to own a firearm is ‘unfettered’ in this country has become ubiquitous among gun controllers. Funny though, I have yet to hear a politician or a respectable proponent of the fundamental right to self defense argue that it should be. The reason they don’t argue that, is because . . . well . . . it is untrue.
Here, for example, is a 2015 Washington Post piece, on then GOP Primary candidates stating as much. No where in the piece does Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) make make the argument that access should be unlimited. Here is former Rep. Dan Glickman of the Aspen Institute writing last week in the Hill: “It’s because the NRA has several million single-issue voters, who only care about protecting their essentially unfettered right to buy and use any type of gun.” And finally, Maryland Institute of College Art Professor Firmin Debradbender writing, again in The Washington Post that, “The NRA’s logic dictates that we should make our schools look like war zones to accommodate unfettered gun rights.” If you don’t believe me, google the phrase yourself.
Proponents of the Second Amendment to the Constitution as well as gun owners see this line for what it is, mendacious and misleading. College professors and elected Congressmen know better. And it makes it hard to have a reasoned discussion to find common ground when one side continually, whether willfully or not, mislead. The parties aren’t far apart just because of some culture war or mere politics. We’re far apart because people are lying. Those truly interested, like members of the NRA and supporters of Civil Rights, understand the Constitution and the concept of Individual Rights. They are limited by their very definition. Supporters of the Second Amendment live with the hassles and regulations everyday. On top of this there is the blood lible from the gun control advocates. It seems there is no price the gun controllers are unwilling to see gun owners pay.
One of my favorite quotes about the limited scope of rights comes in Russel Kirk’s discussion of Edmund Burke in, “The Conservative Mind from Burke to Eliot, “A man has always a right to self defense; but he does not have, in all times and places, a right to carry a drawn sword.” The drawn sword for no reason, in this sense, is the unfettered right. And in the case of the Second Amendment, it is certainly ‘fettered.’ What constrains the right is the appropriate time and place for its execution. It isn’t a license to use as one wishes; a Right exists in context. And there are already plenty of limitations on that context.
To begin with, there are age limits on the ability to purchase a firearm. You cannot purchase across state lines. You cannot purchase one if you are a felon or have been deemed mentally incompetent. Some states, such as Illinois, have additional waiting periods on weapons plus other onerous burdens. California has its infamous “bullet button,” regulation and a plethora of others that don’t make much sense and don’t work. The Heller Decision itself states the right is limited and makes room for the above and more:
Like most rights, the right secured by the Second Amendment is not unlimited. From Blackstone through the 19th-century cases, commentators and courts routinely explained that the right was not a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose.
We do the background checks, the waiting periods, pay the extra taxes, take the mandated and un-mandated training courses, pay for the right to carry, pay for the regulations and carry the burden and responsibility for our rights and we put up with it willingly. We also live with the responsibility if God forbid we do have to exercise our right to self defense. Yet, we are told we are ‘unfettered.’ This is akin to urinating on my leg and telling me it is raining. If you want an honest dialogue on guns; if you want to discuss what may actually prevent the next massacre, then we’re here. We’re willing and we’re waiting. All that were waiting for is a little honesty from the other side.