Tackling gun laws? Amend Constitution or obey it

I suppose we are finally having that long-overdue “conversation” about guns, aren’t we?

Sadly it isn’t a particularly productive one. Neither left nor right is talking any real sense here.

Banning assault weapons is little more than a marketing ploy, as the definition of what an assault weapon is and is not leaves millions of guns on the street that can do just as much damage — if not more — than the weapons that are banned. That’s why when the previous ban was in effect it did virtually nothing to overall gun crime.

But the right’s answer makes just as little sense. Placing armed guards in all of our schools is a magnificent overreaction and is entirely futile. It would be a massive overreach of government authority; it would transform our communities into quasi-police states; and it would be a reprehensible waste of money.

It also wouldn’t make anyone any safer. But it sure would make us feel safer, just like an assault weapons ban. Who cares about logical, clear-headed public policy, I suppose?

I believe quite strongly that a well-armed and responsible citizenry not only deters crime from ever happening, but it also is able to more effectively respond to crime when it does happen.

But mass shootings have happened with armed victims in the past. We do not live in an action movie, and, quite frankly seeing a guard will often simply give an attacker a direct target for who they will take by surprise and shoot first.

More guns will not fix the violent crime problem in America. Neither will gun confiscation. Guns have been taken from the people in countries like the United Kingdom, and all it does is reduce gun violence and replace it with other forms of violent crime.

Yes, there are some commonsense things we can do to ensure that it is harder to commit large mass killings. But it is the motivations of the human heart that drive so much of this.

Indeed, contrary to how we all feel about violent crime, the statistics show that all forms of crime, including gun violence, have been rocketing down for about 20 years now. It isn’t the popular thing to say or argue, but life is a great deal better and safer for the majority of the country. If gang-related violence is taken out of the equation the numbers are even more stark.

Gun violence is a serious issue, and it needs to be treated seriously. Reactionary, emotional reactions that are based on neither facts nor good public policy have to be openly rejected, regardless of whether they come from the left or the right.

The founders proclaimed our right to have arms, based on the long-standing natural right as described by the English Bill of Rights. It emerged after the Glorious Revolution, when King James II attempted to disarm Protestants in England, and it codified the right of the citizenry to protect themselves from such an action, as a bulwark against an oppressive monarch.

The United States doesn’t have a monarch, but oppressive regimes have sprung from all forms of government, including representative democracies.

Liberals frequently make fun of the idea that America needs protection from some such tyrannical government rising up. But a future scenario in which, say, a major economic devastation occurs, and a chief executive asks for and is granted immensely expansive powers, and could come to abuse those powers, is not something to dismiss so lightly.

It is precisely what happened in Europe in the 1930s and, suggesting somehow that human nature has changed to the degree that it is an impossibility in America, is simply untrue.

Even in an age of smart bombs and stealth fighters, a population that is armed is much safer from government oppression than a disarmed one, and that is the entire reason the Second Amendment exists.

If you want to argue that it is an antiquated amendment and that fear of a powerful and oppressive government no longer applies to the American society, so be it. Let’s have that conversation.

But circumventing the Constitution, as the president did by signing unlegislated executive orders, undermines the fabric of the Constitution and should be resisted.

Amend the Constitution, or obey it. One or the other. Stop pretending there are other options. A former constitutional law professor should know better.

Matthew Gagnon

About Matthew Gagnon

Matthew Gagnon, of Yarmouth, is the Chief Executive Officer of the Maine Heritage Policy Center, a free market policy think tank based in Portland. Originally from Hampden, he has been involved with Maine politics for more than a decade.