The Bastard Child of the Bill of Rights

I was mentioning the other day that we need to get ready for the meaningless individual rights arguments to start popping up. Here they come in Philly.

As a member of the House Judiciary Committee I received a lot of e-mails urging me to vote against the gun-control bills we considered last week. Many of these e-mails argued, in some form, that the governor’s proposals violated the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution. The writers seemed to feel that the Second Amendment prohibits any restrictions on gun ownership. However, that is simply not how the amendment works.

First off: good job Pennsylvania Gun Owners! He knows we’re watching. But while I agree the second amendment isn’t absolute, I worry when a politician starts down this road.

Last week we voted down two bills dealing with guns. The first would have required people to report the loss or theft of a gun they owned. The second would have limited to one a month the number of guns a person could purchase.

People can argue about the merits of these bills from a policy perspective, but there is clearly no constitutional impediment to either bill. The two rights spelled out in the Second Amendment do not bestow a constitutional “right” not to report a lost or stolen gun. Nothing in the wording of the amendment even arguably says that.

Really? So if I passed a law limiting the amount of ink people could buy with an aim to combat libel, that would be constitutionally permissible under the first amendment? Would limiting someone to a certain number of e-mails a month, with an aim to combat spam, be respectful of our right to free speech and free association?

All we insist on is that the second amendment be treated as seriously as other rights protected by the constitution. Daylin Leach is arguing for something less than “strict scrutiny”, because applied to your right to free speech, the laws I described above would be tossed.

Hat tip to Melody Zullinger, of PFSC for the heads up.

UPDATE: I just e-mailed Representative Leach.  We’ll see if he responds.  I would encourage everyone to do so as well, because it’s important that he hear from gun owners.  Be nice, be factual, and stick to the issues.

14 thoughts on “The Bastard Child of the Bill of Rights”

  1. If he has an issue with the US Constitution’s second amendment, what about Pennsylvania’s? The whole ‘shall not be questioned’ part?

  2. Don’t blow off that first bill about reporting stolen firearms. I don’t believe even an absolute SCOTUS decision would prevent legislation like that.

  3. Jacob: I actually don’t disagree the lost and stolen bill is probably constitutional. I just didn’t address it because I didn’t want to go into my views on that, which are that the bill is bad policy, but not necessarily unconstitutional.

  4. I agree that the reporting of lost or stolen guns is not a 2A issue. I do feel it should be considered unconstitutional from a right to privacy stance, however.

  5. You are very simply wrong and therefore are subject to becoming a “helpful idiot”. The 2A protects an absolute right. If any right is deemed not absolute, it becomes a privilege, at best, or prohibited at worst.

    As you are already halfway there, you will be easy pickings when they seek to disabuse you of your rights, all of them.

  6. Even if it’s absolute, it’s not a law affecting your right to be armed. You can still keep and bear all the arms you want. It’s saying you have to report them to the police if they are lost or stolen. It might be an infringement on our right to privacy or rights against compelled speech, but I think this is one of the many ways the anti-gun folks can still screw us even if the second amendment is taken seriously.

  7. Actually, I’ve said before, that the state could conceivably do this as an exercise of it’s military powers. The rationale being, they are useful for the common defense, and it’s in the state’s interest to see the police are aware they were lost or stolen, so they can return them to their lawful owner.

    That’s not why the folks are pushing this bill are pushing it, but there are reasons why the lost and stolen bill passes strict scrutiny, and doesn’t go beyond the state’s legitimate powers. It might still be unconstitutional, but not based on the second amendment or the PA constitution.

  8. Once your gun collection surpasses the 3 dozen mark, how am I suppossed to know one of them is missing unless I do a complete inventory with a check off list each day when I get home?

    I got a buddy of mine and he doesn’t even know how many firearms he has. All he knows is that it’s more than 200.

  9. You should really know how many you have and have some kind of record in case your house burns down. But the point is a good one, and hinges on what “reasonably should have known” means. Do you have to do a regular inventory of your collection?

    Of course, their response would be, if you have 3 dozen guns, you deserve to be in jail!

  10. I do have a complete list of make/model and serial # stored at a location other than my house just for that scenario(house fire/theft). My buddy has a manilla folder stuffed full of reciepts, he just stopped counting after a while.

  11. Perhaps a dollar amount should be attached. A person would have to lose ~$5000 worth of guns in order to be required to report the loss.

    Of course, this could pose a problem to collectors who have individual pieces worth well above $5000.

  12. That would pretty much just make the law useless. You can buy a lot of hi-points for 5 large. It has to be easy to prosecute everybody if it’s going to do what they want it to do.

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