Why is it that libertarians – who don’t revere the Constitution – have no trouble understanding the Constitution but conservatives – who do revere the Constitution – have so much trouble? In a letter to the editor of The New American published in its August 20, 2012 issue, someone who believes “in the constitutional right of citizens to keep and bear arms for self-defense – the protection of life and property” and in “the right of a person to hunt and harvest a natural resource for food” is nevertheless troubled about Americans having guns for other purposes. In a letter sent via e-mail, Richard Moore writes about military-type guns being the problem. I reproduce his letter here with my observations because his ideas are typical of many conservatives who have accepted the legitimacy of federal gun laws.
During the time of the creating of the Constitution, all people, civilians, military, and standing armies, had equal access to small arms, single-shot flintlock firearms, and edged weapons. A person with training and practice could load and accurately fire three rounds in one minute with a flintlock firearm, not hundreds of rounds in minutes. I believe in the constitutional right of citizens to keep and bear arms for self-defense – the protection of life and property. I believe in the right of a person to hunt and harvest a natural resource for food. This is also a humane method used to control wildlife populations. High-power, high-capacity, high-tech weapons are for military use and intended for sales to nations with standing armies, not civilians interested in defense of life and property, or hunting. A civilian model of a weapon designed for military use is still a weapon designed for military use. Not allowing people access to weapons capable of mass destruction does not impede the right to self-defense of life and property or the right to hunt. Prohibiting access to such weapons protects life and property. Ask the dead and wounded at the movie theater in Colorado if they agree. Yes, it is true that guns do not kill people. People kill people. It is also impossible to predict and eliminate such incidents, such as the one in Colorado. However, imagine the outcome if the shooter did not have high-power, high-tech, high-capacity weapons.
I have omitted the writer’s last paragraph because it is not related to gun control. Some observations. 1. What Moore writes could just as easily been written by James Brady, Senator Chuck Schumer, or President Obama. 2. If during the time of the Constitution everyone had access to the same weapons then what is the problem with everyone having access to the same weapons now? 3. If high-power, high-tech, high-capacity weapons are outlawed, then only outlaws will have high-power, high-tech, high-capacity weapons. 4. Was the alleged shooter at the Colorado movie theater concerned about violating federal gun laws? 5. Couldn’t the alleged shooter’s Glock .40-caliber handgun alone be capable of mass destruction? Does Moore think it should be banned as well? Why not? 6. If not allowing people access to weapons capable of mass destruction does not impede property rights, then nothing the federal government does impedes property rights. 7. Guns don’t kill people; people kill people – just as Moore says. 8. Imagine the outcome if the victims in the theater had high-power, high-tech, high-capacity weapons. 9. The right of self-defense includes the right to defend oneself against the greatest aggressor of life, liberty, and property in the history of the world: governments. If only governments have access to high-power, high-tech, high-capacity weapons, then all the talk about self-defense is meaningless. 10. If the government is going to ban high-power, high-tech, high-capacity weapons, then it ought to ban them from military use and from sales to nations with standing armies. Civilians wrongly kill far fewer people than government soldiers. 11. The Second Amendment confers no positive right. It is an additional limitation on federal power to infringe upon gun rights besides the fact that no authority is granted to the federal government by the Constitution to infringe upon them in the first place. Even if the Second Amendment only applied to non-military weapons, even if it only applied to state militias, and even if it didn’t exist, Americans would still have the natural right to keep and bear arms of any size, accuracy, or magnitude. Under the Constitution, the federal government has no authority whatsoever to ban high-power weapons, high-capacity weapons, high-tech weapons, machine guns, automatic weapons, armor-piercing bullets, “cop-killer” bullets, sawed-off shotguns, assault rifles, gun sales to felons, bazookas, armored personnel carriers, grenades, IEDs, bombs, or tanks. This is because under the Constitution, the federal government has no authority whatsoever to ban marijuana, cocaine, heroin, crack cocaine, ecstasy, meth, hazardous waste, poisons, pesticides, toxic waste, bath salts, incandescent light bulbs, pornography, absinthe, products containing dog or cat fur, drug paraphernalia, or any other substance. Permitting or prohibiting these substances is a matter for each individual state to decide. This doesn’t mean that the states should ban any or all of these substances. It just means that it is for the states to decide. This is federalism in action. Why is it that libertarians are the ones who actually believe that the relation of the federal and state governments under the Constitution should be as James Madison wrote in Federalist No. 45:
The powers delegated by the proposed Constitution to the federal government, are few and defined. Those which are to remain in the State governments are numerous and indefinite. The former will be exercised principally on external objects, as war, peace, negotiation, and foreign commerce; with which last the power of taxation will, for the most part, be connected. The powers reserved to the several States will extend to all the objects which, in the ordinary course of affairs, concern the lives, liberties, and properties of the people, and the internal order, improvement, and prosperity of the State.
No, military-type guns aren’t the problem. Human nature is the problem. Gun laws are the problem. Government is the problem. Guns themselves are never the problem. N.B.: This was a letter to the editor of The New American, not an editorial by The New American.