Our Founders would be rolling in their graves if they knew what was happening in the Missouri legislature. We know what our inalienable rights are; they can be found in the Declaration of Independence — life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
Not the ownership of firearms.
And why should firearms have any special position over the other nine amendments in the Bill of Rights? Is it not my inalienable right to be free from government-sponsored religion or our freedom of speech and assembly? Or free from unreasonable search or arrest? How about housing troops in my home without my permission? Are these lesser rights?
Why is gun ownership so important that our legislators want yet another state constitutional amendment to force the courts to make any proposed common sense gun law “subject to strict scrutiny …” except to those restricting ownership for individuals with a criminal record or a history of mental illness?
Sponsored by Kurt Schaefer in the state Senate and handled by John Diehl in the House, SJR 36 would strengthen Missouri’s current right to keep and bear arms as a defense (Section 23, Article I). It removes language that now essentially disallows concealed weapons. The proposed constitutional amendment would require voter approval.
Is the gun lobby so powerful and are the fear mongers so prevalent that we need yet another unnecessary amendment to our already bloated state constitution?
I have two major objections to this joint resolution.
The first is simple: As a voter-approved constitutional amendment, it would prevent the law from being easily overturned by a more liberal and possible humanist legislature. It is difficult to change a constitutional amendment, state or federal.
The second is that the law, as written, opens the door to Missouri becoming another Florida where “make-my-day” laws have become national issues. Should anyone be able to own and openly carry a firearm without penalty?
Does this mean that Columbia’s ordinances concerning the open carrying of firearms will be nullified? Does the proposed amendment mean that we can carry concealed weapons without having a carry permit or training?
There are too many questions concerning this joint resolution. It is as if the gun lobby decided that if we are to be a true “conservative state” we must do away with any common sense law concerning firearms.
Another proposed change in our constitution is quite simple (as are the minds of those who seem to be governing this state). It extends our right to own firearms to include ammunition and “accessories typical to the normal function of such arms.” Does this include mechanisms that can modify a weapon to full automatic or noise suppressors — silencers?
The proposed amendment also takes out the restriction of requiring a permit to carry a concealed weapon.
If passed by popular vote, the right to own firearms is to be “unalienable” and the state would be “obligated to uphold these rights and shall under no circumstance decline to protect their infringement.”
Does this mean that the state shall nullify federal, state and local laws concerning firearm ownership restrictions? Did the authors of this law seem to forget the Article VI, Clause 2 and the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution which assigns final say-so to the U.S. government over the state legislatures ?
The fear factor is the biggest threat to American liberty. In fact, Americans today own enough weapons to arm every man, women and child in the United States today. According to the Yale School of Medicine, more than 10,000 children are killed or injured every year by firearms, most because their parents are not responsible gun owners.
The Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence says “73,505 Americans were treated in hospital emergency departments for non-fatal gunshot wounds in 2010 ...” and “31,076 Americans in homicides, suicides and unintentional shootings.”
The more guns available, the more gun-related injuries by accident or intent. Missouri would devolve back to the Wild West where the ownership of a handgun was mandatory. As a former gun owner, I would no longer feel safe in my community not knowing who is and is not carrying.
The argument that “I am a safe gun owner” is the normal response, and that may be true for you, but what about your neighbor? Or the person down the block or the stranger around the corner?
The joint resolution has passed and does not require the governor’s signature to proceed. You will have the opportunity in November to tell our legislators that this carte blanche to play Wyatt Earp is, at best, stupid. At worst, dangerous.
David Rosman is an editor, writer, professional speaker and college instructor in communications, ethics, business and politics. You can read more of his commentaries at ColumbiaMissourian.com and InkandVoice.com and New York Journal of Books.com.