Recently, I went to a rally for gun control in my home town, Lexington, MA, which is ironic since the Shot Heard ‘Round the World, the beginning of the American Revolution, basically took place in my backyard. As I stood there listening to a three-page list of school shootings, I started to weep for those parents who would never see their child again. This sadness cloud has followed me around for weeks, reminding me that nothing ever changes when it comes to our gun laws.
And then the clouds broke and a beam of heavenly light came through, shining down upon the bizarre state of Florida. The state that gave us hanging chads is now giving us a regulating gun law. Go figure. It is called the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act (wow, that’s a mouthful) and it was signed by Republican Governor Rick Scott, the guy who banned the term “climate change” in Florida. (Hey, Guv’nor, let me know how that works out for you as your beaches disappear.) This gun legislation would raise the age allowed to purchase a firearm from 18 to 21, ban the sale of bump stocks, require a three-day waiting period for the purchase of a firearm, and allow some teachers to be armed. Okay, not perfect but it’s a start. And then almost immediately the NRA filed a federal lawsuit against Florida, saying that the age-minimum section violates the Second and the 14th Amendments of the Constitution. Like I said, a bizarre state.
Okay, so let’s take a look at what the Second Amendment actually says: “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.” Only 27 words and no mention of age. Yet there IS a mention of regulations with regard to owning Arms, which gun advocates tend to skip over. They would like us all to think the original intent of the Second Amendment was to allow any private citizen to own a gun, but this interpretation is pretty modern, coming from the Supreme Court decision DC vs Heller in 2008, the majority opinion written by Justice Scalia.
[Let us take a brief moment of silence for Justice Scalia. May he rest in Hell for his twisted and condescending Supreme Court rulings. This is the man who said in 2013 that the Constitution is “not a living document. It’s dead, dead, dead.” And now so is he. Conservatives complain about activist judges, but Scalia is the posterboy for judicial activism. And while we’re at it, let’s take another moment of silence for Obama’s Supreme Court nomination that was killed, symbolically. Never forget how, after Scalia died, the Senate Republicans stole that Supreme Court opening/nomination from Obama.]
It seems the NRA throws the 14th Amendment into the mix because of the civil rights clause “No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; not shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without any due process.” This also does not mention age, but when coupled with the Second Amendment’s most recent interpretation, makes the argument that ANYONE can own a gun.
If that is the case, why stop at eighteen? Why not a seventeen-year-old? If you say eighteen is the limit, aren’t you infringing on the seventeen-year-old’s right? What about a seven-year-old? Five-year-old? Five-month-old? Fetus?!?! No, you have to draw the line somewhere and the Constitution leaves that up to the Congress to regulate.
There’s that word again: regulate. A well regulated militia. Even in his majority opinion, Scalia wrote that the right to own guns is “not unlimited,” implying that a line must be drawn. But where’s the part about the militia? How did the ruling manage to get around the militia service part of the Amendment? Well, that’s a story for another day. (But if your interest is piqued, you should check out Adam Winkler’s “Gunfight: The Battle over the Right to Bear Arms in America.”)
So this latest fight in the courts is going to highlight arguments about regulations vs. rights. When does the State have the right to curb your rights? The right to safety in one’s life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness vs. the right to own a weapon of war. Which right infringes upon the other and therefore needs regulating? The battle lines are drawn. In the words attributed to Captain John Parker of the Lexington militia on that fateful day of April 19, 1775, “Don’t fire unless fired upon, but if they mean to have a war, let it begin here.” In the bizarre state of Florida.
Power to the People,