The Gun Rights Divide in the U.S.

What will happen to gun rights and gun laws, now that the President-elect and both houses of Congress are controlled by conservatives? Is the Second Amendment safe for now? Not in every State.

I’ve noticed that, during the Obama administration, while the Federal government was increasing restrictions on firearms, the more conservative States were making progress loosening restrictions. Seven States changed their laws to allow constitutional carry over the last 8 years: Arizona in 2010, Wyoming in 2011, Arkansas in 2013, Kansas in 2015, and then West Virginia, Idaho, and Mississippi all in 2016.

What will happen during the Trump administration? I suspect that the liberal States will react by doing everything they can to restrict gun rights.

Already, California is leading the way with eleven new laws, including unprecedented restrictions. I’ll highlight a few points:

* Hundreds of thousands of legally owned semi-automatic rifles have now been reclassified as assault weapons.
* The new laws effectively outlaw magazine locking devices, i.e. bullet buttons.
* Loaning a firearm for lawful purposes to anyone other than a family member is now illegal.
* There is now a 10-year firearm prohibition for someone convicted of falsely reporting a lost or stolen firearm.
* The possession of high-capacity magazines (greater than 10 rounds) is prohibited.

The NRA has a brief summary of each law here.

And it’s only going to get worse, at the State level. We are headed for a nation where U.S. citizens in some States have their full constitutional right to bear arms, and U.S. citizens in other States can barely access the right at all.

Even now, Massachusetts is “may issue” for a firearms i.d. card, which is the most basic type of license to own a gun in that State. If the local chief LEO doesn’t want you to have a gun, you can’t have one. And you need to go through an interview with the chief LEO, submit fingerprints and photos, and pay a fee of (if I remember correctly) over $100.00. All that is needed for a basic weapon, like a shotgun or bolt action rifle. Handgun permits have greater restrictions.

As for a carry permit, if you can get one in Massachusetts, there is a common practice whereby the chief LEO issues the carry permit, but adds a restriction so that you can only carry for “sport/target” purposes, and not “all lawful purposes”. Basically, you can carry at the range or when hunting only, and not for self-defense. Then maybe, after 5 years or so, the chief LEO might drop the restriction, if he feels like it.

In my opinion, Massachusetts does not really recognize a constitutional right to bear arms. There are so many restrictions that the possession and use of firearms is clearly not treated as any kind of right.

On the other hand, Missouri has just elected a new Republican governor, Eric Greitens. He’s a former Navy Seal. And he will begin his term with a Republican controlled House and Senate. Seems like a gun rights might be safe in that State for a while. Interestingly and unfortunately, Greitens’ wife was recently robbed at gunpoint. She was unharmed. But it makes me think that the governor might favor legislation aimed at securing the right to self-defense with a firearm.

Solutions to the Divide?

Perhaps the best solution would be at the Federal level. Congress could pass laws offering broad protection to the right to bear arms, and preventing States from restricting that right. But then we would need a conservative Supreme Court, to affirm that those laws are constitutional. So it depends on the next pick for a Supreme Court Justice. I’d like to see that type of federal law pass.

But I worry that, in the near future, liberals may gain control of the Presidency, Congress, and the Supreme Court, and take away gun rights from the Federal level. Then instead of a gun divide, where at least some States protect and defend the right to bear arms, we would lose that right nationwide.

I suppose the best solution is to win over the hearts and minds of our fellow citizens, so that voters throughout the nation, in every State, will protect and defend the entire Constitution and Bill of Rights, including the Second Amendment. But that solution seems further away than ever, right now. For the culture has turned against the right to bear arms. And some voters are heavily influenced by whatever the culture tells them to believe.

– Thoreau

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