In order to add credibility to the arguments made below, I will fully and freely disclose the following: I am a gun owner. And I really enjoy shooting.  Not hunting, mind you. I don’t hunt. No, I like guns, always have. Handguns, rifles, shotguns, semi-automatic, lever-action, revolvers – my tastes run the gamut, as most gun enthusiasts’ do.

In my youth I owned a lot of G.I. Joe and COBRA action figures and they came with miniature weapons which I loved learning about. By the age of 10 I could recite the standard list of firearms used by all of the Joes: M-16, M60, Browning .50 Caliber, M1911A1 Auto-pistol, etc. I also, in my youth, learned safe-handling and a healthy respect for firearms as well. I’m very thankful to my dad and other mentors for that important guidance.

I’ll also state that I’m not a fan of the idea of concealed carry. Not because I don’t like guns, but because I don’t trust people. Not everyone is smart, rational, or responsible. And that means that even if someone is shooting at people in a public place, I can’t count on concealed carriers to use caution rather than fear or rage when they start shooting back. The only thing worse than a child being killed by a gunman is a child killed by someone who was trying to shoot the gunman.

That being said, I’m going to examine the 2nd amendment-based argument which was the basis of two recent supreme court rulings concerning Washington D.C. (District of Columbia v. Heller – 2008) and Chicago (McDonald v. Chicago 2010) regarding handgun ownership. This argument is constantly parroted by gun rights proponents, so I think it is important to point out its flaws so that we can instead focus on why the recent rulings were, in fact, a travesty, a federal government power grab, and an assault on local governance, which most “States’ Rights” and “small government” advocates should have been up in arms about (pardon the pun).

We’ll begin by looking at the language of the 2nd amendment.

Gun-rights folks – don’t worry, you’re not going to hear the “militia = National Guard” argument or any other historical context arguments you’ve heard before.

Gun control folks – don’t worry, you’re not going to hear the baseless “shall not be infringed” or any other argument you’ve heard before.

The Second Amendment to the Constitution of the United States reads:
“A well regulated Militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms shall not be infringed.” (drawn from the Government Printing Office)

Note that the words “Guns,” “Firearms,” “Ballistic weapons,” and so on are not mentioned. The word used is “Arms.” And here is where the argument starts. “Arms” is all-inclusive. It means pretty much anything that can be used as a weapon. From an ice pick to a shotgun to a howitzer all the way up to an intercontinental ballistic missile. Anything you can use as a weapon is covered by the word “Arms.”

So, “Militia” phrase aside, what the amendment actually says is that I have a clear and definitive right to posses and “bear” any weapon I want?

Well, technically…yes! That’s what the amendment, in its purest form says. Hallelujah! I’m running out to buy a flamethrower and a few shoulder-fired surface-to-air missiles and then I’m heading off to pick up the kids at school!

If we, as a society, were to interpret the 2nd amendment in its purest form, then technically we should all have the right to carry any weapon, be it a blade of more than 3″, a high-capacity handgun, a fully automatic rifle, a stinger missile, or a tactical nuclear weapon. In addition, this should apply to everybody…even felons! (I realize there are some gun-rights advocates who are nodding their heads in agreement. At this point, if you agree with the conclusion above, you can stop reading because I’m not going to convince you.  You might also want to look into emigrating to Somalia where you can arm yourself to your heart’s content and likely even get to use those weapons…often.)

Once we identify the object of the clause as, “Arms” and not “Guns” it becomes obvious that we, as a society, have chosen to propose and accept reasonable limitations on the right identified by the 2nd amendment, no? After all, there are no organizations that I am aware of advocating for the free and open carry of flamethrowers. There is no N.A.W.A. (National Anti-tank Weapon Association). And none of the self-proclaimed 2nd amendment advocacy groups seem to go much further than endeavoring to make all firearms legally available and bearable. I mean, where the hell are the broadsword carry advocates?!

This is where the pro-concealed carry “constitutional-purist” argument falls apart entirely. If your argument is that the amendment states “…shall not be infringed,” with respect to “Arms,” then why aren’t you advocating for the right of any citizen to posses weapons of mass destruction?

The answer is because that would be insane! We can’t have random Americans in possession of chemical weapons, dirty bombs, nerve gas, or high-powered lasers! It would be madness, anarchy, and assuredly a threat to the public welfare! At a minimum it would make it impossible to, “establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, (and) promote the general welfare” thereby trumping the preamble of the Constitution, and then where would we be?

So then, it is obvious that in regard to “Arms” we, as a society, a community if you will, agree that there are reasonable limits that can and have been placed on the rights granted by the 2nd Amendment. Once we’ve established that single point, the issue changes entirely. Rather than being an argument about the right to own or carry firearms, it becomes an argument about the right of a community to establish those reasonable limits for themselves; it is about the right of a group of people, using the democratic process, to establish laws that represent the will of the people, especially laws that relate to public safety. And therefore, it is an issue of whether a smaller community can be trumped by a larger one.

In the case of Chicago, it was the latter. The big, evil, overly powerful federal government, that many gun rights advocates openly distrust and even abhor the actions of, told the small, local community of Chicago that their “reasonable limit” was wrong. And gun rights (therefore, small government) advocates cheered.  “Hooray!  The Federal Government just established a legal precedent to allow itself to completely overrule a local community’s right to govern itself!  God bless America!”

Sorry small government advocates, you just lost a HUGE landmark battle there. And most of you helped it along and rejoiced when it happened.

My opinion on this issue is, because local government is closer to, and more in the control of, the people it serves, then it has more right to establish public safety laws that serve the interests of the people. So if a local community votes to enact tougher restrictions on “Arms” than the federal government, good for them!  Especially if it makes them safer. If they find that the law does not make them safer, they have the right to use their democratic process to alter or repeal that law. That’s what democracy is all about.

If Gunbarrel City, Texas wants to allow its residents to carry fully automatic shotguns, so be it. As long as their democratic process was followed, then that should be the right of that community.

If Iowa City, Iowa wants to restrict all residents from carrying knives with blades longer than 2″…same principle.

And if the residents of  the City of Chicago, following their municipal democratic process, choose to enact a restriction that bans the possession of handguns within the city limits, it is their right to do so. After all, the right to bear ALL arms may have been infringed, but the federal government did that already by regulating nuclear weapons. Chicagoans still had the right to own and possess rifles and shotguns, so the right was not eliminated, just restricted. And as a citizen of the United States, I am afforded the right to change my state, county, and city of residence at any time.  Therefore, if I really don’t like the gun laws of the city of Chicago (which I didn’t) and it is so important to me that I can’t bear it, I can either lobby to have the law itself repealed, or I can move to a different municipality.

The rulings in D.C. and Chicago were not the gun-rights victory that the media so ardently championed; they were a defeat of small government, a boon to federal power, and an assault on local liberty. Sleep well, America.