Gun advocates claim the Second Amendment provides an absolute right to own and carry any kind of gun, but a far greater right should take precedent–the right to public safety.
The Constitution gives inherent “police power” to state and local governments to protect public safety, within the bounds of the 14th Amendment, which requires due process of law, according to legal references.
Gun control has been one of those issues where courts have had a difficult time balancing the right to own guns against the right to public safety.
But given the rising number of mass shootings, the courts and state and local governments have clearly erred on the wrong side of the debate.
Every American citizen has a constitutional right to go to work or a shopping mall, or school with a reasonable expectation they will be safe.
But multiple mass shootings have instilled a broad fear in the public. Anyone could be gunned down on a whim by an individual armed with a deadly assault rifle or other firearm anywhere at any time.
The latest incident occurred Thursday night (Apr. 15) at an Indianapolis FedEx warehouse. Eight people were killed and seven injured in a two-minute gun rampage.
The shooter, obviously suffering from mental issues, killed himself. But, then, why did he have a gun in the first place?
Relentless lobbying by the National Rifle Association, its Congressional lackeys and hard-right local Republicans have led to a proliferation of guns without adequate safeguards to protect the public.
Criminals have no trouble arming themselves and even 13-year-old children are roaming the streets with guns. as evidenced by the death of Adam Toledo in Chicago. He was armed when shot by police last month.
It’s simply matter of supply and demand. The more guns in circulation thanks to lax gun laws, the easier it is for criminals, the mentally ill and even teens to get them.
The Biden administration is finally beginning to address the problem. The president, through a series of executive orders, has taken steps to stop the sale of so-called “ghost guns,” ban a device that turns a pistol into a rifle, and create model “red flag” laws.
The law would allow family members or law enforcement to petition for a court order to temporarily bar people in crisis from accessing firearms if they present a danger to themselves or others.
The president has also ordered The Justice Department to issue a new, comprehensive report on firearms trafficking with annual updates necessary. The last one was done in 2000.
The idea is to give policymakers the information they need to help address firearms trafficking, which puts guns in the hands of criminals.
While the steps are commendable, they hardly go far enough.
In 2016, the New York Attorney General’s office released the first-of-its-kind analysis of guns used by criminals or found at crime scenes.
Of the 53,000 crime guns recovered by New York law enforcement between 2010 and 2015, nearly all were traced to an “iron pipeline” from states with lax or non-existent gun laws.
The report called for universal background checks, closing of the “gun show loophole,” and requiring state issued licenses to own a gun, much like cars are registered.
It also called for tougher penalties for gun trafficking and a law to make gun trafficking a federal crime.
To date, none of those measures have been enacted.
Gun advocates, of course, have seized on language in the Second Amendment barring “infringement” of the right to “keep and bear arms” as justification for unlimited possession of guns.
But courts are finally beginning to realize that the Second Amendment was never meant by our forefathers to authorize unlimited gun possession.
Last month, the federal 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the United States has a long history of restricting the right to carry guns in public and such laws do not run afoul of the Second Amendment.
The ruling followed mass shootings in Colorado and Georgia.
Ten people were killed Monday at a Boulder, Colo., grocery store, prompting the state to consider a ban on assault-style weapons. Eight people were killed at Atlanta area spas. Six of the victims were of Asian descent.
“The government may regulate, and even prohibit, in public places — including government buildings, churches, schools, and markets — the open carrying of small arms capable of being concealed, whether they are carried concealed or openly,” wrote Judge Bybee, a George W. Bush appointee.
The full court ruling was in line with the Supreme Court’s landmark 2008 ruling in District of Columbia v. Heller, 554 U.S. 570.
In the controversial opinion, written by Justice Anton Scalia, the court held the Second Amendment protects an individual’s right to have a gun for “home protection.” All other uses were subject to regulation.
So far, the 9th Circuit decision only affects Alaska, Arizona, California, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington.
But three other federal circuit courts have issued rulings similar to the 9th Circuit’s decision. Those courts are the Second, Third and Fourth Circuits, according to Courthouse News Service, setting the stage for further consideration by the U.S. Supreme Court.
Significantly, the 9th Circuit court majority relied on a lengthy history of laws that prohibited weapons in public going back to the 1328 Statute of Northampton in England.
In colonial America, gun ownership was often restricted and in some cases all guns were required to be stored in a central location in the town.
Well after the Second Amendment was the law of the land, the state of Tennessee in 1801 prevented anyone from carrying a firearm in public. Violators faced fines and potential imprisonment.
In 1813, Louisiana banned all concealed weapons in public, including “dirk, dagger, knife, pistol or any other deadly weapon.” They had to be carried in open view.
In keeping with District of Columbia v. Heller, the Ninth Circuit majority concluded that while “the Second Amendment may guarantee the right to keep a firearm for self-defense within one’s home, it provides no right, whatsoever, to bear—i.e., to carry—that same firearm for self-defense in any other place.”
No one should have to constantly look over their shoulder when they gather in a school, church or public space to keep an eye out for someone with a gun, intent on doing harm.
Yet, that’s clearly not the case in America today. It’s time to move forward and put the public’s safety over the rights of a minority to kill or intimidate others in public with firearms.
This is no longer a gun control debate; it’s now a public safety debate.