About four out of ten Americans live in a home with a gun owned by them or another of the occupants. In rural America 46% of the adult say they own a gun. Yet, a substantial portion of our American citizens question the propriety and wisdom of allowing average citizens to possess and own firearms. I have decided to write several blog posts over the next few months about gun ownership. In this first installment, I will analyze what the U.S. Constitutions says about the this subject. In later installments, I will discuss specifically what the laws are in Missouri and certain cities in Missouri relating to the ownership of firearms and the limitations provided in our laws.
The Second Amendment to the United States Constitution provides;
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.
I was in law school, several years before the United State Supreme Court had decided the cases of District of Columbia v. Heller , 554 U.S. 570 (2008) and the McDonald v. Chicago, 561 U.S. 742 (2010) which provided an interpretation of the Second Amendment. When I was enrolled in the University of Missouri School of law someone explained to me that this Second Amendment simply acknowledged the existence and utility of the “National Guard” which at times has been referred to as the militia. As my education of early American history was somewhat deficient at that time, I did not then give this much thought.
I have now come to understand that this important amendment is not at all related to the usefulness of the National Guard. Indeed this Amendment acknowledges that that our freedoms provided by the United State Constitution are intended to be protected by all of the people who can keep and bear arms in order to secure these liberties and the second Amendment provides them with the capability to doing so. This capability to keep and bear arms by ordinary citizens is what provides all of us the tool to retain a free state (nation state).
Allowing such freedom to ordinary
citizen is in contrast as to how totalitarian nations operate. In 2012 dictator Hugo Chavez’s in
Venezuela enacted a new gun law which
banned the commercial sale of firearms and ammunition. Prior to that he had required universal
registration of all firearms. Although
he claimed he was creating these laws to reduce crime, the crime rate in that
country continued to increase after their enactment. Obviously, his real motivation was to impose
his will upon the citizens of Venezuela and remove their opportunity to resist
his tyranny. What has happened in
totalitarian nation in the last one hundred years follows the same path. Take the right to possess firearms away from
ordinary citizens and they lose this valuable tool to resist.
The Majority Opinion in the U.S, Supreme Court case of Heller was written by Justice Antonin Scalia. The facts of this case were that Mr. Heller desired to keep a firearm in his home for self protection and the District of Columbia had denied him the right. This case held that the Second Amendment protects an individual right to possess a firearm unconnected with service in a militia, and the right to use that arm for traditionally lawful purposes, such as self-defense within the home, is protected by our Constitution. The ruling held that this restriction imposed upon Mr. Heller by D.C. was unconstitutional.
The Majority Opinion of McDonald v. Chicago was written by Justice Samuel Alito and held that the provisions of the Heller Decision applied to the states. The facts in this case was that Chicago and the village of Oak Park, a Chicago suburb, had laws that effectively banned handgun possession by almost all private citizens. These two Supreme Court decisions collectively ruled that the right to keep and bear arms prohibits our the federal government and the individual state governments from denying the right to law abiding members of our society of keeping firearms.
The “Well Regulated” American Militia refers to the entire population free to possess arms in order to secure the liberty of the place in which they live, in their own homes, in their communities across each State and ultimately encompassing the entire nation.
These important decisions reserved in these governments permission to provide certain reasonable limitations to this right, but this right to keep and possess a firearm by ordinary citizens is in unalienable right and cannot be denied by any state or by our federal government.
All states prohibit individuals convicted of a felony from possessing a firearm. It is not legal to possess an fully automatic firearm unless you are the holder of a federal firearm permit. Outside of some basic rules there are a great of variety of rules related to firearm possession across our nation. In my next blog on this subject, I will address Missouri Constitution and laws on this subject.