The knee-jerk bleating reactions of the anti-gun left, biased media, four Supreme Court justices and selected state and municipal governments notwithstanding, who stands to gain most by draconian gun laws designed to restrict the law-abiding citizen's right to defend himself, his family and his property? If you answered "the career criminal," go to the head of the class — the burglar, the home invader and every thug's greatest nightmare is a level playing field on which the home owner or private citizen is armed.
The notion that outlawing private gun ownership will enhance the safety of our homes or person is utter nonsense. What criminal would obey such an edict? It is the law-abiding who are placed at greatest risk — anyone believing the felon who is already armed in defiance of the law will surrender his weapon is naive to the point of lacking common sense. Murder, robbery, assault and rape are violations of established law — all are committed continually by lawbreakers.
Accordingly, albeit belatedly, the Supreme Court in District of Columbia v. Heller held the Second Amendment to mean exactly what it says, that — inasmuch as self-defense is a fundamental right — the right to keep and bear arms extends to the states as well as to the federal government. That finding was reinforced and broadened in the June 2010 ruling in McDonald v. Chicago, in which the majority ruled the privileges and immunities clause of the 14th Amendment incorporates that Second Amendment right for individual self-defense.
Contrary to the dissenting opinions by the Supreme Court's minority, the aforementioned anti-gun lobby, media columnists, cartoonists and editorial opinions (the hysteria-generated June 28 Kansas City Star editorial as the absolute nadir), the majority acknowledged the constitutional right is not an absolute one. The court held, "The right to keep and bear arms is not 'a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose.'"
The court iterated that neither "Heller" nor "McDonald" overturns longstanding reasonable regulatory measures such as prohibiting felons and the mentally ill possessing firearms, laws against carrying firearms in sensitive places such as schools and government buildings or imposing conditions on concealed carry or transfer of handguns. The Kansas City Star's and other publications' characterizing the Supreme Court's interpretation as judicial activism and alleging that state and local governments will forfeit reasonable regulation of firearms is absurd.
No one disputes that there exists among the population a considerable segment that, for a variety of reasons, fear or dislike guns. Some have experienced tragedies involving firearms, others who have little or no history with weapons are uneasy while a number of them are so adamantly anti-gun as to align with organizations calling for an absolute ban on the manufacture and sale of firearms.
Opponents of basic gun rights assert that banning firearms in general and handguns in particular is the panacea to end all gun crimes, citing biased studies and statistics as evidence. In deaths involving children for example, they use Center for Disease Control data, which include those 19 and under, wilfully ignoring that 80 percent of these are homicides by criminals 15 to 19 years of age. In reality, the 1999 Center for Disease Control statistics for accidental deaths of children 10 years or age and under cited firearms as the cause in six cases while 93 drowned in bathtubs.
The Bill of Rights, established as the first 10 amendments, guarantees individual rights to the people. Those people described in the Second Amendment are the same as those described in the First and Fourth Amendments and to whom those rights and powers are reserved in the Ninth and 10th. May we safely assume that when the framers identified "the people," they included individuals such as you and me?
We should be able to agree also that, while a firearm is inherently dangerous, the degree of danger is vested in the person responsible for its use. A legally procured handgun, rifle, shotgun or even a Taser in the hands of a responsible and law-abiding citizen is far less apt to cause death or injury than an automobile operated by that same individual. Conversely, the criminal's weapon is rarely obtained legally and is intended for an unlawful purpose, rather than self defense or recreation.
The legitimate gun owner is described in the Second Amendment as one whose "right to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed." On the other hand, the person who uses a firearm for murder, armed robbery, intimidation, drive-by shooting or is a convicted felon has forfeited that right. To deny the person described in the first sentence that right of defending himself or herself from the one in sentence two is criminal — as well as a violation of the Constitution.
Finally, as has been the case accompanying nearly every court decision expanding the rights of gun owners, the wailing pronouncements of impending doom by hyper-hysterical anti-gun activists have failed to come to pass. Neither the "Heller" decision nor more than 40 states (Missouri included) issue concealed carry permits has resulted in the streets running red from gun battles involving legally armed citizens.
Banning guns will not deny them to criminals; however, adding 10 years to the sentence of one committing a crime while in possession of a firearm and 20 years for displaying said weapon is a powerful deterrent. If the anti-gun activists wish to make a difference, they will board the bandwagon for those more severe sentences for crimes with guns.
J. Karl Miller retired as a colonel in the Marine Corps. He is a Columbia resident and can be reached via e-mail at JKarlUSMC@aol.com.