Tuesday, April 10, 2007

the right to keep and bear arms?

Here's something that has been bothering me for a long time.

The Bill of Rights enumerates those rights that are inherent to us by virtue of being human. It does not "give" or "grant" us any rights, it merely lists those that our government most certainly may not infringe upon.

Now, why is it that gun owners largely support the denial of the right to keep and bear arms to felons?

Bring the point up on any online gun forum, and the assembly will tell you, by a margin of ten to one, that felons ought to lose the right to own a gun for life, yessiree, and if you don't want to lose that right, you have the option not to commit any felonies.

There are two major problems with that line of reasoning.

First, it plays right into the hands of those who would love to see the Second Amendment gone, and with it all ownership of private arms. It's exactly the argument they use: the Second Amendment is somehow more dangerous than the other ones, and the exercise of that particular right, out of all the rights enumerated in the Bill of Rights, can and should be infringed upon by the government.

Once a felon has served his time, we don't deny him the right to free speech, or the right to exercise the religion of his choice. He doesn't lose the right to jury trial, nor the right to be free from unreasonable search and seizure. So why on earth should he lose the right to defend himself? Have the gun banners been right all along? Is the Second Amendment really a privilege, not a right? And if that's the case, what's to keep the Nine Bench-Wraiths from turning the rest of the Bill of Rights into privileges as well?

I fear that the majority of gun owners actively assists in the negation of the Bill of Rights when they use the arguments of their opponents just because it is emotionally convenient. I mean, who would want to live next to a convicted felon with a gun, right?

The problem, of course, is that no laws keep anyone from having a gun if they really want one. (Isn't that what we've been arguing when we complained about the onerous "assault weapons ban", and when we rail against state legislatures who deny their citizens the right to carry a gun in public?) Moreover, one man's gun is as much offense to some as another man's religion is to others, and if you make one part of the Bill of Rights a conditional "privilege", then the parchment is rendered worthless in its entirety.

The second major problem with the "no guns for felons" approach is that the definition of "felony" has been expanded to the point of ludicrousness. These days, nobody can live their lives anymore without committing several felonies a week, mostly without even knowing it. In some states, having the wrong piece of metal at the muzzle of your rifle is a felony. Taking a whiz by the side of the road can get you a felony sex offender conviction. The people in charge, conservatives and liberals alike, are fully aware of the fact that the only true power of the state is to crack down on lawbreakers, and they are sticking the label of "felony" on as many acts as possible.

If you support the abrogation of a released felon's right to keep and bear arms, the anti-gun movement doesn't need to have a President Hillary signing any sort of draconian universal gun ban like they have in the UK. The Second Amendment will simply die a quiet death while the folks in charge steadily expand the definition of "felon". Sooner or later, we'll be a nation of felons--disarmed by our own assent.

In fact, what keeps them from limiting the disqualifying factor to felony convictions? Why not make it misdemeanors, too...and maybe even consider convictions retroactively? If SCOTUS lets the government determine one particular misdemeanor as a disqualifying offense, the legal precedent is already set, and there's absolutely nothing except the court of public opinion to keep them from making any misdemeanor a disqualifying offense. Oh, sure, they'll start with really unpopular and abhorrent behavior first, like domestic violence or DUI, but let the camel's nose into the tent, and you lose your right to complain when you end up sleeping outside in the sandstorm.

And once they've eviscerated the right to bear arms in that fashion, think about what other inconvenient part of the Bill of Rights can be negated using the same precedent. After all, if even gun owners agree that the right to arms is a.) the linchpin of the Bill of Rights, and b.) can be denied completely in case of felony or even misdemeanor conviction, how can they argue against others doing the same to the other, "lesser" rights?

The Bill of Rights is not a menu; you can't pick and choose according to your emotional whims. You have to treat all the Amendments the same. If one is inviolable and irrevocable, they all are. If one is a revocable privilege that can be denied to felons and misdemeanor offenders, the same holds true for the rest of them.

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