18 November 2011

GreyMail: The Constitutionality of the Recent Gun Bill

Brad asks:

I have a feeling there is a constitutional way to look at this. Enlighten me.
A state permit to carry a concealed firearm would be valid in almost every state in the country under legislation the House passed Wednesday.
The first pro-gun bill the House has taken up this year and the first since Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz., was severely injured in a gun attack in January, it had the National Rifle Association's backing and passed by a comfortable margin. The vote was 272-154, with only seven Republicans voting against it and 43 Democrats supporting it.
The Democratic-controlled Senate has no parallel bill. But two years ago, GOP Sens. John Thune of South Dakota and David Vitter of Louisiana nearly succeeded in attaching a similar measure to a larger bill.
Under the House legislation, people with a concealed carry permit in one state could carry a concealed weapon in every other state that gives people the right to carry concealed weapons.

Article four asserts that the constitution has some power over the states.  The second amendment asserts that citizens have rights that must be respected, and doesn’t limit the prohibition of citizens’ rights to the federal government like the first amendment does. A reasonable case can then be made that neither the federal government nor the state governments can infringe upon the rights of citizens.  Infringement, it should be noted, doesn’t refer simply to prohibition, but to any attempt at curtailing one’s right to use one’s own property.  (Note that the general principle of being secure in one’s own property, as espoused by the fourth amendment, would also apply here.)  In keeping with this, it should be noted that states do not have any authority to infringe upon the rights of their citizens, particularly as it relates to carrying concealed weapons.

What’s interesting is that the recently passed legislation is not actually concerned with the second amendment.  If it were, it would simply say that all citizens of the united states have the right to carry concealed weapons, and no state could infringe upon these rights.  Since the legislation only states that “people with a concealed carry permit in one state could carry a concealed weapon in every other state that gives people the right to carry concealed weapons,” then the only conclusion that can be drawn is that this legislation is only concerned with reciprocity laws, which is not the same as citizens’ rights to carry concealed arms.  By this, the legislation is essentially implying that states can infringe on citizens’ right to keep and bear arms since it doesn’t fundamentally deny the validity of the claims made by those states denying citizens the right to carry concealed firearms.

Really, this legislation seems more concerned with asserting federal authority over the states.  It’s not really a defense of personal rights or constitutional authority, per se.  Rather, it simply advances the cause of the gun lobby, which I generally view as a positive thing.

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