There have been several pieces of good news lately relating to 2nd Amendment rights in the United States. By now everyone should be aware of the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling striking down the 32 year old Washington, D.C. ban on citizens keeping guns in their homes. Florida has a new law which allows gun owners to transport their legally registered guns to work as long as they keep them locked up in their cars. There are exceptions to the law – those who work in schools are still prohibited from bringing their firearms onto school grounds. Lastly, Governor Sonny Perdue of Georgia signed legislation in May that allows the state’s 300,000 concealed weapons permit holders to carry hidden guns on public transit, in state parks and restaurants that serve alcohol. Congratulations to those political leaders in Florida and Georgia and the 5 justices on the Supreme Court that got it right for a change by supporting the Amendment to the Constitution that ensures all the others.
How does the 2nd Amendment ensure that the other nine amendments of the Bill of Rights are honored by the federal government? We consult the Declaration of Independence for that answer:
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government.
Our Founders knew that historically, government as an institution is prone to abusing power and denying natural rights to its own citizens as well as citizens of other countries. So, Jefferson, Adams, Franklin, Washington and their brethren built a two tier system to guarantee that the same would not happen with the government they were instituting. First, Americans would have the ability to “alter” their government through the ballot box. If that option became unavailable to them they could take up arms and “abolish” it. Fortunately, in the United States, we have had a history of regular elections and smooth transitions to power. But, our past is no reason not to be vigilant about protecting 2nd Amendment rights, since a slow steady erosion of gun rights is as dangerous to the health of our republic as a sudden confiscation of the same right.
Besides ensuring the perpetuation of the Bill of Rights, the 2nd Amendment has a practical purpose – preventing catastrophes. Let’s face it, the police cannot be everywhere at all times. Nor would we want them to be. That is called a police state and would surely result in the loss of our constitutional rights. So, there are times when the citizenry must take criminal matters into their own hands. An example would be the courageous passengers that battled the terrorists and brought down their hijacked plane on an empty field in Pennsylvania on September 11, 2001, saving the lives of many. With more liberal gun carrying laws at the time, the Virginia Tech Massacre of 2007 might have been prevented. The assailant, Seung-Hui Cho, might have been deterred from making his attack if he knew that he could encounter another gun-slinging student or faculty member. However, Cho was mentally unstable and probably would have carried out the slaughter anyway. Can it not be argued that the more than 30 people who were gunned down that day would have had a better chance at survival if at least one person in the vicinity of the tragedy had been packing a piece? With a totally disarmed population at his mercy, Cho was able to kill many innocents and wound many more before taking his own life.
The mass killing at a Luby’s Cafeteria in Texas is the greatest testament to the practicality of the 2nd Amendment and liberalizing gun carrying laws in the U.S. On October 16, 1991, George Jo Hennard stormed the restaurant and gunned down unsuspecting patrons. As part of the human carnage that day, Suzanna Gratia Hupp lost both of her parents at the hands of the gunman. Gratia Hupp owned a gun, but kept it in the trunk of her car while she had lunch with her folks. She was obeying Texas law at the time which prohibited her from carrying a firearm into a public place. A good shot, Gratia Hupp is confident that had she been allowed to carry her firearm into Luby’s, the lives of many, including her parents, would have been saved. Again, a defenseless group of people found themselves at the absolute mercy of a madman. Common sense policy would have given them the ability to defend themselves.
Many will say we no longer live in the Wild West. It is crazy to allow just anybody to carry a gun anywhere. This is a reasonable position. Many states do need to strengthen their vetting procedures for who can and can’t get a gun permit. Clearly, Cho and Hennard fell through the cracks and should never have been given a permit based on their previous mental history. Even though businesses are used by the public, they are still private property. Owners should maintain the right to deny guns on their property if they choose. As a business owner several years ago, I carried a 9mm pistol for protection at all times. I was trained to use the gun and could have used it to protect life or property. Training is important for all gun owners. Even though great care should be taken when giving the state the authority to tell us what to do, perhaps a good compromise in order to get more liberal gun carrying laws nationwide would be to require gun carrying permit applicants to receive training and show proficiency with the gun they intend to carry before they are granted a permit.
Hopefully the easing of restrictions on where gun owners can carry their firearms in Florida and Georgia will become a trend across the U.S. Most, if not all, gun owners realize the immense responsibility that comes with the right to keep and bear arms. By liberalizing the gun carrying laws, the 2nd Amendment would be respected. Further, ordinary Americans would be empowered to potentially avert massacres and save lives. At the very least, liberal gun carrying laws would serve the same purpose as nuclear weapons during the Cold War. A would-be assailant would think twice before striking if he knew that at least one member of his target audience might be loaded with equal firepower. That is called deterrence and it worked for the 44 year long Cold War. We can assume it will work in preventing crime.