Obama, gun control and the Constitution

President Obama has sparked mass outrage as reports circulate that he will be issuing 19 executive orders on gun control this week. What does the Constitution say about it? Photo: President Obama / AP Images

DALLAS January 15, 2010 – It started on Monday with New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg telling students from John Hopkins University that President Obama should bypass Congress. He said, “There are steps that President Obama can take without congressional approval at any time he chooses with just one stroke of the pen.” In a country with a system of checks and balances formalized in three branches of government, Bloomberg’s cavalier attitude towards the Constitutional system is worrisome.

Rule of Law Suspended

Bloomberg continued by saying that Obama should direct his agencies to “cease adherence” to the Tiahrt Amendment, a law which prevents local law enforcement agencies from full access to federal gun databases. This suggestion that the President stop obeying the will of the people as expressed in laws made by Congress borders on treason.

If you want to change the law, appeal to Congress, but it is the job of the executive branch to enforce the law, not make, change or ignore laws duly passed by Congress. Imagine New Mexico governor Martinez calling on the President to “cease adhering” to the Civil Rights Act of 1964, or the mayor of Atlanta suggesting that the President violate the NAFTA treaty. No-large-soft-drink-Bloomberg’s attitude towards government is arrogant, abusive and dangerous.

Mayor Bloomberg went on to say, “President Obama should make a recess appointment to head the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms, direct the Department of Justice to prosecute convicted criminals caught providing false information during gun background checks, and order federal agencies to submit data to the national gun background check database.”

Do we really need an executive order for the DoJ to prosecute criminals for providing false information? There is no evidence that the DoJ has been derelict in this duty! These are scare tactics, a deliberate disinformation campaign!

We all have a first amendment right to express our opinion. Bloomberg has exercised his and there is good reason to believe he did this without a permit. There is also no record of his having obtained a permit to practice his Jewish faith, the existence of which is actually based on rumor as sightings of his religious convictions have been quite rare. It is, however, understood that the 1st amendment does grant intrinsic “concealed carry” rights for religious convictions, rights which he is clearly exercising.

Today, Joe Biden, who was put in charge of a task force on the issue, joined the chorus of the “King’s men” claiming that President Obama can move unilaterally on the issue of guns and is considering 19 different measures. In a press conference, President Obama reaffirmed his belief that there were things that could be done by executive order.

This new focus on rule by fiat (executive orders) is due to a certain political reality, namely that there is not sufficient support for additional gun control measures in Congress. When Congress has approval ratings lower than Lance Armstrong and popularity ratings on par with that of Darth Vader, it is not difficult to understand why Vice President Biden thinks the public will accept this radical new legi-executive branch, but these facts notwithstanding, Congress, not the President, is charged with making law.

President Obama and Vice President Biden might consider that Congress is the fullest expression of the “will of the people” currently residing in Washington DC. And if they can’t find the votes for more gun control, maybe it is because their constituents don’t want more gun control in this government “of, for and by the people.”

Reframing the debate

The Obama administration is riding the wake left by a tsunami of emotion unleashed by the Sandy Hook shooting, and there is tremendous obfuscation of the facts.

Bloomberg has advocated banning all semi-automatic weapons and high-capacity magazines saying, “If you haven’t hit the deer with three shots, you’re a pretty lousy shot. The deer deserves to get away.” The guns-are-for-hunting argument used so often by the left is an attempt to confuse the issue by implying that hunting is the Constitutional right protected by the Second Amendment!

Yesterday, the New York State Senate approved a bill called the toughest gun law in the nation. It was supported by New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, who said, “At what point do you say, ‘No more innocent loss of life.’” Notice how the debate is couched in innocent-loss-of-life language to make gun control seem like a “common sense” measure while ignoring the hundreds of studies on the issue and the thousands of lives saved by guns each and every year. (See this database of facts related to gun ownership that you’ll never hear the media talk about).

Not only does the left make emotional appeals, but it also frames the debate with inflammatory language. Take the word “assault” rifle for instance. This term is continually tossed into the “media salad” fed the public, but as every gun owner knows the term “assault rifle” is a fabricated term. Assault rifles are essentially no different than other semi-automatic rifles.

Even the term “semi-automatic” is used as a scare tactic. A semi-automatic weapon is one that fires a cartridge each time the trigger is pulled and automatically chambers the next round. There are millions of semi-automatic handguns in the United States. Only match pistols, revolvers and derringers are not semi-automatic.

“Shall Not Be Infringed”

Although the “well-regulated militia” language of the Second Amendment is hotly debated (see this article for a good explanation), the Supreme Court has repeatedly upheld the right of the individual to own firearms, overturning restrictive laws in both Washington DC and Illinois.

Having firmly established this right, the more interesting debate concerns the meaning of “shall not be infringed.” This language must either mean “the right cannot be violated but may be subject to regulation” or “no restriction or limitation can be placed on the right.”

The first definition is the one currently employed in the legislative process; it means that “reasonable” restrictions on Second Amendment rights can be implemented by government. However, even a brief study of the word “infringed” as used by James Madison, Samuel Adams and the Congressional Committee shows that the original intent of the law was that “no restriction or limitation can be imposed.”

Consider this. The original wording of the First Amendment was “…nor shall the full and equal rights of conscience be in any manner, or on any pretext, infringed.” It is absurd to claim that the freedom of religion was guaranteed but subject to “reasonable” regulation. This first draft was eventually reworded to say, “Congress shall make no laws…,” thereby clarifying the intent beyond a shadow of a doubt.

Similarly, the amendment proposed by Samuel Adams stated, “that the said Constitution be never construed to authorize Congress to infringe the just liberty of the press, or the rights of conscience.” Again, there is no doubt that the amendment here proposed meant that government had no right whatsoever to limit or restrict the press or the rights of conscience. “Shall Not Be Infringed” clearly means shall not be restricted, thereby making gun permits as constitutional as “free speech” permits.

The argument that guns get special treatment because they are dangerous is no argument at all. Crimes can be committed through speech as well - perjury, libel, fraud, etc. Bernie Madoff ruined thousands of lives through his lies, yet it would be absurd to suggest that free speech permits be issued only to state-approved individuals on the grounds that this liberty might be used for criminal activity.

We have laws to punish crimes. There is no law which can prevent them. Laws that restrict the ability of US citizens to “keep” (possess) and to “bear” (carry) arms are unconstitutional.

Will there come a time when a permit is required to exercise our right to a jury trial? Habeas Corpus? It may sound far-fetched, but it has already happened. Both Republicans and Democrats have passed a National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) signed by President Obama, which includes indefinite detention by the military depriving US citizens of their constitutional rights if they are labeled as terrorists. The latest version of the bill is supposed to address these concerns, but not everyone is satisfied it does.

In a few days, President Obama will be taking his oath of office swearing to “…preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.” If he bypasses Congress and infringes Americans’ Second Amendment rights, he will have violated his oath. The 19 executive orders he is considering should be viewed as 19 grounds for impeachment.

The Constitution is clear, and for those who disagree with the Second Amendment as intended by the Framers of the Constitution, there is a process for changing it. Until then, demand that your Senators, Congressmen, and President preserve, protect and defend it. The best defense against tyranny is the rule of law, and the law of the land is the Constitution. The second-best defense is a gun.


Luke Montgomery, author of A Deceit To Die For, lived in the Middle East for over a decade. He holds an MA in Linguistics, speaks fluent Turkish and writes on foreign policy, religion and culture. You can follow his work at www.lukemontgomery.net, or find him on Twitter at @LookingFor_Luke and on Facebook.

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Luke Montgomery

Author and researcher Luke Montgomery grew up on the ancient hunting grounds of the Mescalero Apaches, where he cut his teeth on tales of Geronimo’s exploits, supped with Viking heroes in Valhalla and embarked on exhilarating voyages with Odysseus. Somewhere along the way, he grew older, but he didn't grow up. After obtaining his MA in Linguistics, he set a course for adventure in Europe and the Middle East, where he lived for over a decade combing Hittite, Phrygian, Lycian, Greek and Roman ruins on the shores of the Mediterranean and Aegean.   Eventually, he returned to the land of liberty at what he considers its most crucial hour to take up his post in the defense of individual liberty. When he is not consulting private and public institutions with interests and operations in the Middle East, he tends grapes, raises Longhorn cattle and researches public policy, especially as it relates to culture. As an expert on Islam, he spends much of his time researching and writing about religious politics. Some of the people and works that have shaped his worldview are Emily Dickinson, Rudyard Kipling, Atlas Shrugged, C. S. Lewis, Anton Chekhov, Omar Khayyam, LOTR, the Torah, O. Henry, The Ballad of the White Horse, Bruce Cockburn, George Orwell, Yaşar Kemal, Aziz Nesin, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, and Yeshua... You can follow his work at www.lukemontgomery.net/blog.html , or find him on Twitter at LukeM_author and on Facebook



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